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The Goddess Amphitrite in Greek Mythology

Updated on August 21, 2016
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.

The Greek goddess Amphitrite is one of those Greek deities that most people today are unaware of. In Greek mythology though, she is a relatively prominent figure, for although she started off as being simply a Nereid, a sea-nymph, through marriage she would become Queen of the Sea.

Water Nymphs in Greek Mythology

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Naiads
Nereids
Oceanids
Sirens
Thetis

Amphitrite - Nereid or Oceanid

According to Hesiod in the Theogony, Amphitrite was born to the ancient sea god Nereus, and his wife, the Oceanid Doris, making her one of the 50 Nereids.

This parentage is one generally agreed upon in ancient sources, but confusingly in the Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), the author names both Nereus and Doris, as well as Oceanus and Tethys, as Amphitrites’ parents. If Oceanus and Tethys were indeed the parents of Amphitrite, then she would be one of the 3000 Oceanids, rather than a Nereid, although in the wider scheme of things this matters little.

Statue of Amphitrite

Amphitrite (1866), by François Théodore Devaulx (1808-1870). North façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris. Jastrow CC-BY-2.5
Amphitrite (1866), by François Théodore Devaulx (1808-1870). North façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris. Jastrow CC-BY-2.5 | Source

The Rise of the Olympians

Nereids and Oceanids were minor goddesses associated with water; the Nereids being linked to the salt water of the Mediterranean, and the Oceanids with freshwater sources in Ancient Greece. Water was of course vital to life in Ancient Greece, but the importance of Amphitrite would be increased with a change in rule of the cosmos.

During the Golden Age of Greek mythology the cosmos was ruled by the Titans under the leadership of Cronus. This Golden Age though, would come to an end when Zeus led an uprising against his father, and with the aid of his siblings and allies would emerge victorious in the Titanomachy.

The cosmos would then be divided up amongst the three sons of Cronus, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon; and ultimately Zeus became ruler of heaven and earth, Hades was given dominion over the Underworld, and Poseidon was given the sea.

Each ruler then sought out a consort to rule alongside them. Zeus would have a succession of wives, although most notable was Hera, whilst Hades would abduct and wed Persephone. Poseidon on the other hand, set his eyes upon Amphitrite.

Poseidon and Amphitrite

Paris Bordone (1500–1571) PD-art-100
Paris Bordone (1500–1571) PD-art-100 | Source

Poseidon and Amphitrite

Given dominion over the sea, which at this time in Greek mythology meant the Mediterranean, Poseidon’s retinue was said to include the 50 beautiful Nereids. Amphitrite was regarded as one of the most beautiful of these sea nymphs, and Poseidon was instantly attracted to her.

The attentions of Poseidon proved to be unwelcome, and Amphitrite had no wish to marry the supreme god of the sea. To escape the unwanted attention Amphitrite fled to the furthest extremes of the sea, near to the Atlas Mountains.

Poseidon was not so easily thwarted though, and the king of the sea sent out many different creatures to find the nymph he intended to wed. One such creature was Delphinius, who be accident, actually managed to find the hidden nymph.

Finding her was one thing, convincing her to return to the palace of Poseidon was another, but the eloquent words of Delphinius actually did convince the Nereid; and a wedding between Poseidon and Amphitrite was soon arranged.

Poseidon was so grateful for the assistance of Delphinius that he placed the dolphin amongst the stars as a constellation.

Poseidon and Amphitrite

Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678) PD-art-100
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678) PD-art-100 | Source

Children of Poseidon and Amphitrite

After the marriage, Amphitrite was normally depicted as being by the side of Poseidon upon his sea chariot; or else she is portrayed being carried upon the backs of various marine creatures.

Amphitrite would also give birth to a number of offspring by Poseidon, including the minor sea god Triton, who would become Poseidon’s messenger; Rhode, the goddess of Rhodes, Cymopoleia, a sea nymph of storm waves; and Bentheseicyme, a goddess of waves.

Additionally, Homer would also proclaim that Amphitrite would bring forth seals, dolphins, fish and shellfish, although other writers would tell that these were brought forth by various other sea goddesses, including Tethys.

The Triumph of Amphitrite

Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–1777) PD-art-100
Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–1777) PD-art-100 | Source

Myths About of Amphitrite

Amphitrite doesn’t really have her own mythology, and in most cases is simply perceived as being the sea, but some ancient writers would tell of her jealous nature. In one story, Poseidon lusted after the beautiful Scylla, and so Amphitrite transformed the hideous six headed monster that devoured unwary sailors; although this transformation was more commonly attributed to the sorceress Circe.

Comments

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  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    3 years ago

    thanks for reading as always

  • daydreamer13 profile image

    daydreamer13 

    3 years ago

    Excellent hub! Thank you for this information.

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