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Children of the Night in Greek Mythology

Updated on June 6, 2015
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Children of Nyx in Greek Mythology

The title of mother of the gods is one often given to Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth, and indeed, most deities of the Greek pantheon trace their lineage back to the Protogenoi. There is though, a line of, mostly dark, gods who do not, for they are offspring of another Protogenoi, Nyx, the Greek goddess of the Night.

Hesiod's Genealogy of Nyx

In this article, the genealogy of the gods is taken as written down Hesiod in the Theogony, although most ancient sources tend to agree when it comes to the family line of Nyx.

Nyx herself was the daughter of Chaos, the first born of all the first born gods, and Nyx, as night, would work hand in hand with Erebus, darkness, to bring forth a close to the day.

With Erebus, Nyx was also mother to two Protogenoi, Aether and Hemera.

Hemera

Hemera Greek Goddess of the Day - William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - PD-art-100
Hemera Greek Goddess of the Day - William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - PD-art-100 | Source

Aether and Hemera

Hemera – Hemera was the daughter of Nyx and Erebus, and was regarded as the Greek goddess of the Day.

Just as Nyx would have to work with Darkness to bring forth true night, Hemera would have to work with Light to bring forth the true day. In this instance Light was Aether.

Aether ­– Aether was the son of Nyx and Erebus, and was the Greek god of the glowing air of the heavens, the air that the gods breathed. This air was also thought to be the source of light, rather than the sun.

When Hemera emerged from her cave in the morning, Nyx and Erebus would be forced back into their home, leaving Aether unobscured.

The Goddess Nemesis

Nemesis Goddess of Retribution - Strato-Cat - CC-BY-ND-3.0
Nemesis Goddess of Retribution - Strato-Cat - CC-BY-ND-3.0 | Source

Famous Offspring of Nyx

Nyx though would also be mother to many other deities who were not regarded as Protogenoi, and although in some cases Erebus is named as the father, Hesiod would write that these subsequent children had no father.

Thanatos – Thanatos is one of the most famous of the offspring of Nyx, for he was widely considered to be the Greek god of Death, although in truth he was the god of non-violent death. It was this god who was dispatched to take Sisyphus to the underworld, and he was also wrestled by Heracles when Alcestis was to be taken away.

Hypnos – Thanatos was said in Greek mythology to have a twin brother, Hypnos the Greek god of Sleep. Hypnos was said to reside in a cave in Tartarus, and each night would accompany his mother in her journey across the sky. Hypnos would also appear in other stories, and he even put Zeus to sleep on one occasion at the behest of Hera.

Eris – Eris is one of the more famous daughters of the goddess Nyx, for Eris is the Greek goddess of strife and discord, and it was this goddess who played an integral role in the Trojan War. It was Eris who threw the Golden Apple of Discord at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis; an act which prompted a dispute between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.

Nemesis – Another famous daughter of Nyx is the goddess Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution. Nemesis would work with Zeus to bring balance to the universe for it was this goddess who balanced out happiness and sadness, as well as good and bad luck.

Geras – Geras was the god of old age in Greek mythology, and was normally depicted as a wrinkled and bent over old man. Whilst there was virtue in achieving old age, there was also the curse of infirmity that often accompanied it.

Multitudes of Offspring for Nyx

The Oneiroi – The Oneiroi were a group of a thousand gods or spirits who would work alongside Hypnos, for the Oneiroi were the gods of dreams. Each night these gods would leave the Underworld and enter the thoughts of the sleeping, and depending on which gateway the Oneiroi exited the realm of Hades, impacted on the type of dreams delivered.

The Keres – Thanatos has already been mentioned as the Greek god of peaceful death, but there were other children of Nyx who dealt with violent death, the 1000 female Keres. These goddesses were often found on battlefields or in disease outbreak areas forcibly taking souls.

The Moirai – The Moirai were the three goddess of Fate, the three sisters who plotted the life paths of all from birth through to death. The three sisters were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.

The Moirai

The Moirai Goddess of Fate - John Melhuish Strudwick (1849–1937) - PD-art-100
The Moirai Goddess of Fate - John Melhuish Strudwick (1849–1937) - PD-art-100 | Source

Overlooked Children of Nyx

Apate – Apate was the goddess of Guile and Deception, a goddess who would often be found in the company of Lies.

Momos – Momos was a son of Nyx, who had briefly resided on Mount Olympus, but was expelled when he made fun of the other gods, for Momos was the god of Ridicule and Blame.

Moros – Moros was the god of Doom, a god who might have been allowed to overrun the earth but for the presence of Hope within Pandora’s Box.

Oizys – Oizys was another dark goddess, for she was the goddess of Misery and Suffering.

Children of Nyx that just don't fit

Philotes – The goddess Philotes is one of the children of Nyx who stands out as being different from most of the others, for Philotes was the Greek goddess of friendship and affection.

The Hesperides – the last of the children of Night named by Hesiod are the Hesperides; the three beautiful nymph goddesses of the evening and sunset.

There is of course a connection between the evening and the night, but the beauty of the sunset is not really in keeping with the children of Nyx that have gone before. This is probably the reason why some other ancient writers would tell of the Hesperides, being the daughters of the Titan Atlas instead; the titan already being father to the beautiful Pleiades.

The Hesperides

The Hesperides - Ricciardo Meacci (Italy, 1856 - 1900) - PD-art-100
The Hesperides - Ricciardo Meacci (Italy, 1856 - 1900) - PD-art-100 | Source

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