The Nereids are Sea Goddesses/Nymphs and the daughters of Nereus and Doris, who was the daughter of Oceanus. Doris’ name means “bounty of the sea”, which is perfect for the Mother of the Nereids, who represent all that is beautiful about the sea.
They are 50 in number, all of whom loved to dance and sing with their melodious voices. They dressed in the finest silks and their heads were crowned with red coral.
All of them were oracles and had the gift of prophesy and divination. They could prophesy shipwrecks and storms, as they rode whales and dolphins throughout the ocean. They were the protectors of the sailors and fishermen, whom they would save when the predicted storms would appear.
They lived with their father, Nereus, but would go forth to accompany the King of the Sea, Poseidon, who was married to Amphitrite.
Each of them represented a part of the sea and the ocean’s bounty.
The Greek poet, Hesoid called them “truthful and unlying” and “beyond reproach”.
These 50 sisters had one brother, named Nerites, who was born after all of them. It is said that he was the most beautiful male and, one can assume, spoiled by his sisters.
While not all of the Nereids has their own legend, they each had their special part of the sea or specialty.
Aktaia – “Goddess of the sea shore”;
Doto – “safe passage to boats and ships”; She also had a temple in Gabala;
Amatheia – a healer, who nursed and nurtured the fish of the sea;
Galateia – “Goddess of the sea foam”;
Amphinome – “the sea’s bounty”;
Keto – “sea monsters”;
Amphitrite – Possessed the power to calm the waters and quiet the wind; She did this along with Her sisters, Kymatolege and Kymodoke and Kymo;
Amphithoe – “moves swiftly”;
Eukrante – “successful voyage”;
Galene – “calm seas”;
Eunike – “maritime victory”;
Autonoe – “with her own mind”;
Dynamene – “the power of the sea”;
Erato – “the lovely”;
Halia – “of the brine”;
Kallianas – “lovely queen”;
Eudora – “fine gifts of the sea”;
Eukrante – “successful voyage”;
Eulimene – “good harbor”;
Lymnoreaia – “salt marsh”;
Eumolpe – “fine singer”;
Oreithyia – “raging sea”;
Pherosa – “rescuing sailors”;
Protomedeia – “first queen”;
Psamathe – “Goddess of Sand”;
Agave – “the illustrious”
Thetis – “the unofficial leader of the Nereids
The remaining Nereids are Thaleia, Theisto, Thoe, Laomedeia, Maira, Leagore, Melite, Panopeia, Nemerites, Menippe, Neomeris, Neso, Nesaire, Apseutes, Dero, Pherosa, Ploito, Eione, Polynome, Dexamine, Pontomedousa, Eugare, Proto, Kallianeira, Pontoporeia, Poulynoe, Kalypso, Eupompe, Klaia, Pronoe, Euarne, Hippothoe, Klymene, Iaira, Kranto, Ianassa, Ianeira and Ione.
MYTHS & LEGENDS
In the legend of Jason and his search for the Golden Fleece, the Nereids were instrumental in helping him and his crew survive. Hera had asked Thetis to protect Jason from the anger of Zeus. As Jason’s ship, the Argo, was sailing between the Wandering Rocks (which would destroy the ship and everyone aboard), the Nereids surrounded the ship while Thetis took hold of the rudder blade. Thetis directed the course of the ship, the Neireds tossed the ship back and forth, carrying it above the waves. The ship would have been destroyed, if not for the bravery of the Nereids.
One day as the Sisters were out frolicking between the sand and sea, Thetis was captured by the Warrior/King Peleus, who wanted to marry her. She unsuccessfully tried to run. She was, at that time, very unwilling to marry but eventually did so, with all of her sisters in attendance.
Thetis was the mother of Achilles; and so, the Nereids were present, marching in his funeral procession. As they proceeded upon the sea shore, they grieved with their sister.
Theseus was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, but his claim was disputed by King Minos of Crete. Minos flung his ring far out into the sea and demanded that Theseus retrieve it, to prove his claim. Theseus dove right into the ocean, where he was picked up by dolphins and brought to his mother’s court, where the Nereids gave him a golden crown to prove his royal heritage.
The Nereids were mentioned not only in the works of Hesoid, but also Baccylides, Ovid, Plato and Sappho, amongst many others.
It is easy to imagine that all of our present tales and myths of sea monsters and mermaids that help sailors come to us from these legends of the Nereids.