Greek Myths: The Origins | Centaurs | The 12 Olympians | Achilles
Gods of Greek Mythology | Heroes of Greek Mythology | The Trojan War
Heracles | Sirens | Prometheus | Perseus | Pygmalion and Galatea
Jason and the Argonauts | The Children of Nyx | Death and the Underworld
Nyx is the classical Greek representation of night, born from the primordial chaos. With Erebus (darkness) she mothered Aether and Hemera - atmosphere and day. She also created a host of deities without male assistance; all aspects of the darker side of humanity. As with most Greek myths, stories and descriptions of deities varied over time - the following list is an amalgamation.
The goddess of Strife. She was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, because by her definition she would doom the marriage. She gatecrashed anyway and rolled in her golden apple inscribed 'Kallisti' - To The Prettiest One. Hera, Aphrodite and Athena each claimed it as theirs. To avoid a lot of squabbling, Paris was called in to judge. Aphrodite's bribe clinched it - Aphrodite got the apple and Paris got Helen of Troy. Helen's abduction started the Trojan War. Whether Eris had intended quite such a spectacular result is up for debate.
She was also a consort of Ares; he trained her on the battlefields. After seeing the carnage and hearing the moans of wounded and dying men, she began to grow in stature claiming she could not stop what she had once started.
In a later myth she appeared with Sloth to pester Heracles after the slaying of the Cithaeron lion. Strife offered him a life of hard work and constant struggle which would end with great fame and triumph. Sloth offered him a life of comfort and indulgence which would end in obscurity. Heracles chose the path of Eris.
In more modern times, Eris has made a few appearances. In the Xena television series, she is depicted as being a cute, short goth. She is also the inspiration behind Discordianism, a religion disguised as an elaborate joke1.
The Sisters Of Eris
Her siblings were:
- Apate, the goddess of deceit.
- Geras, the goddess of old age.
- Philotes, the goddess of affection. It may sound unusual for a 'nice' deity to be among Night's children but her function can also be described as 'sweet lies'.
The Goddess of Retribution. 'She who none can escape'. She punishes those who have committed malicious deeds and those who love with an empty heart. She appears as a fierce woman wielding a whip, sword or a pair of scales.
Zeus once pursued her with his usual lusty intentions. To escape him, Nemesis transformed into a variety of animals (a common tactic among pursued goddesses and nymphs). She eventually became a black goose and Zeus, in the form of a white swan, caught her. They made love and the resulting egg was taken to Leda by a shepherd. Helen was hatched from the egg and raised by Leda and Tyndareos. She was especially beautiful - Aphrodite used her as a bribe for Paris.
The Angel of Death. He came to mortals when their time came to an end, cut off a lock of their hair for Hades, then carried them away. He appears as a young man, dressed in black robes and carrying a sword. Alternatively, he carries a wreath or butterfly in one hand and an inverted torch in the other. Several myths include him: Sisyphus once tricked him and was tortured eternally as punishment. After the battle of Troy, with his brother Hypnos, he carried away Sarpedon's body. He also wrestled with and lost to Heracles when he came to take Alcestis away.
The God of Sleep. He inhabited a cavern located in the island of Lemnos, surrounded by a thousand dreams. Through this dark and misty place ran the river Lethe; the waters of forgetfulness.
Hypnos was often employed by Hera to send Zeus to sleep. During the Trojan war, Hera needed Zeus out of the way to give the Greek armies an edge. Hypnos, disguised as nightjar, waited until she seduced Zeus then swooped in to send him to sleep.
He also granted Endymion the ability to sleep with his eyes open. He could then always gaze up at his love, Selene (the Moon)
Neil Gaiman's Sandman can be considered to have elements of Hypnos. Indeed, the Sandman comics often borrowed from Greek mythology.
His dreams were collectively known as the Oneiroi, and included:
- Morpheus, who was skilled at impersonating people. Iris sent him to imitate Ceyx, the drowned husband of Alcyone.
- Icelus, master of impersonating monsters.
- Phobetor, the fearful dream who could impersonate animals.
- Phantasos, who can imitate lifeless artefacts.
Murder, Slaughter and Carnage. These goddesses left destruction in their wake, corrupting those they contacted with ailments and death. They were consorts to Eris and are similar to the Furies in function.
They are related to Ker, the Goddess of Doom. Ker had claws and a long cloak, bloodied from the wounded and dead that she dragged away to the gates of the Underworld.
The patron of writers and poets. Momus spent most of his time moaning at the other gods. After Zeus created the bull, Momus pointed out that its horns were in the wrong place. Surely the shoulders are a better place than the head, as this is where the animal is strongest? He also complained about Aphrodite's creaky sandals and her talkative nature. A critic and a cynic, basically.
The Other Children
Nyx also bore Blame, Woe, Friendship and Limos (Hunger). Some myths place the Moerae (Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos) as daughters of Nyx rather than daughters of Zeus. This is an interesting distinction; should even the King of the Gods have control over the Fates?
Find yourself a copy of Hesiod's Theogony for the original lowdown on Nyx and her children. Ovid's Metamorphoses details Morpheus and his brothers. Homer mentions Hypnos and Thanatos in his works on the Trojan War.
Other Entries in This Project
- The Origins
- The Trojan War
- Other Gods of Greek Mythology
- Other Heroes of Greek Mythology
- Jason and the Argonauts
- Pygmalion and Galatea
- Death and the Underworld
- The 12 Olympians