The Presence Of Nymphs In Greek Literature And Religion

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The presence of Nymphs in Greek literature and religion is everywhere; from whom people pray to, to the way they impact the stories of authors, and all the way to impacting how people speak like Socrates and Homer. Describing what a nymph is however, is a very difficult process. In Greek literature and religion, the main way of identifying a nymph is the formula “Daughter of Asopos” (Larson 4). Other common ways of identifying these divine beings are if they are the daughter of Zeus or other river gods/nymphs. Nymphs usually had a “superhuman lifespan” and were basically immortal to a certain degree, but have been transformed by the gods if they acted in a way that they disapproved of, such as Diana and Calisto in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Another …show more content…
If there was a female who was in close relation with Diana or Dionysus, she was considered a nymph (Larson 5). Nymphs played huge rolls throughout Greek literature and religion and they are talked about frequently throughout Ovid’s Metamorphoses. A Nymphs roll in religion differs on what area of Greece one focuses on. In classical Athens, Nymphs are more companions to the gods in the Greek pantheon, however, the worship of Nymphs aligned mostly with rural and non-elite populations (Larson Preface). In Athens, Nymph’s relationships with male gods were more on the basis of sexual contact or were bounded by a familial sense such as a lover or daughter. Nymphs who were in close proximity to female goddesses acted more as a supportive being and helped the goddess in a functional sense, like the nymphs that surround Diana (Larson Preface). The purpose of nymphs around Artemis are mostly tasks that do not take much thought, like cleaning her boots or watching her dogs (Larson 108). In Ovid’s version of the Aktaion myth, the Nymphs take care of Diana’s armor; they dress her, do her hair, and get water for her bath. Nymphs however are not involved in …show more content…
Even Socrates, “when he playfully announces that he is on the verge of speaking in dithyrambs under the influences of the nymphs of Ilissos” (Larson 13). Plato ‘s evidence in this respect says “In several dialogues, he has Socrates allude to nympholepsy in a way that presents it as quite unrelated to the tearing of clothes, biting of lips, and other convulsions,” compared to an oracle that is overpowered by a nymph (Connor 158). “In Plato, nympholepsy betokens heightened awareness and eloquence. In the Phaedrus, for example, Socrates interrupts his speech "does it seem to you as it does to me that something supernatural is happening to me?" Phaedrus replies that he believes a "quite unusual rhetorical fluency has seized Socrates (Connor 158).” This shows how Nymphs can control speakers of poetry and philosophy and influence Greek literature to have an elevated sensibility and power of expression. How do nymphs actually impact literature? In the Homeric epics, which are some of the earliest literary sources we have, most of what people know about Nymphs and what defines a Nymph is pretty set in stone (Larson 20). Homer uses the word Nymph to mean bride and also female water deity. Homer calls Penelope and Helen “numphe phile,” which is another word for nymph, but referring to

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