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The Goddess Nyx in Greek Mythology

Updated on May 30, 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.

Nyx the Greek goddess of the Night

People today often think of the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology in terms of the dozen gods of Mount Olympus; and as such the best known Greek gods and goddesses are the likes of Zeus, Hera, Apollo and Aphrodite.

The pantheon of Greek deities though was a large, and consider the fact that every aspect of the cosmos had a god or goddess associated with it. One now virtually forgotten goddess of this pantheon was the Greek goddess of the night, Nyx.

Nyx Greek Goddess of the Night

Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) PD-art-100
Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) PD-art-100 | Source

Nyx and Erebus

According to Hesiod, in the Theogony, Nyx was one of the Protogenoi, the first born gods of Greek mythology; and was the offspring of Chaos.

In antiquity, Nyx was normally depicted as a beautiful woman, often surrounded by dark mists, and occasionally driving a black chariot.

Nyx would partner with another Protogenoi offspring of Chaos, Erebus, the god of darkness.

Nyx and Erebus would become parents to two further Protogenoi, Hemera and Aether; whilst Nyx and Erebus were gods of darkness, Hemera, as Day, and Aether, as Light, were the opposite.

Nyx and Hypnos

Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) PD-art-100
Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) PD-art-100 | Source

The Role of Nyx in Greek Mythology

The Goddess Nyx was said to live in a cave in the depths of Tartarus, and indeed the dark misty air of that part of the Underworld was said to be her husband, Erebus.

Each day, Nyx would emerge from her cave, and with Erebus, would block out the light of Aether, bringing darkness to the world.

As Nyx emerged from her home, Hemera would become the new occupant, until the next morning when Hemera herself would emerge to scatter the dark mists of night; and Nyx returned to her cave once again. Of course, mother and daughter could not be resident in the cave at the same time.

In later Greek mythology Aether and Hemera was replaced by Eos and Helios, and then Apollo, but Nyx, as the goddess of the night, was never really replaced.

At the same time the surviving texts of Greek mythology, rarely mention her but there was an example of just how powerful Nyx was perceived to be.

Hera had arranged with Hypnos (Sleep) to put Zeus to sleep so she could get revenge for one of his many indiscretions. Zeus of course was extremely angry with Hypnos when he found out, and so the god of sleep fled back to his mother’s, Nyx’s, cave. When Zeus discovered where Hypnos was he decided to stop with any thoughts of revenge.

Nyx was therefore a powerful figure from a time before the Olympian gods, one whom even Zeus would not antagonise, despite being rarely mentioned.

More Children of Nyx

Where Nyx is mentioned it was primarily because of her offspring, and not just Aether and Hemera.

Hesiod would again provide a list of children born to Nyx. These offspring included Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), Eris (Strife), Moros (Doom), Geras (Old Age), Nemeis (Retribution), The Moirai (Fates), The Keres (Hounds of Hades), and The Oneiroi (Daemons of Dreams).

In keeping with the dark nature of Nyx, the offspring of the goddess of the night were also dark, and in truth, in surviving texts, were more prevalent than their mother.

Nyx and her Children

Pedro Américo (1843–1903) PD-art-100
Pedro Américo (1843–1903) PD-art-100 | Source

Comments

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  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    3 years ago

    Thanks daydreamer for reading and commenting.

  • daydreamer13 profile image

    daydreamer13 

    3 years ago

    Well done. I like the pictures too.

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