ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Nymphs of Greek Mythology

Updated on August 22, 2016

The idea of the nymph is one which appears regularly in Greek mythology; and according to many ancient writers the ancient world abounded with them.

Within the Greek pantheon, nymphs are most easily classified as minor goddesses associated with elements of nature and specific locations. Broadly speaking, nymphs, with a few notable exceptions, can be classed as water nymphs, land nymphs or forest nymphs.

Orpheus and the Nymphs

Nymphs Listening To The Songs of Orpheus - Charles Jalabert (1819–1901) - PD-art-100
Nymphs Listening To The Songs of Orpheus - Charles Jalabert (1819–1901) - PD-art-100 | Source

The Nymphai

The nymphs were all thought of as being beautiful, joyful maidens. The beauty of the nymphs would make them objects of desire for many other gods, mortals and other inhabitants of the ancient world. The nymphs would often willingly give in to the sexual advances of others, but would also occasionally flee from unwanted advances.

The beauty, and the joyful nature, of the nymphs would often seem in the retinue of major gods, or as attendants to the same; and so nymphs were often found away from their expected “natural” habitat, and were instead depicted alongside the likes of Artemis, Demeter, Dionysus and Poseidon.

It is normally assumed that the nymphs were immortal just like the major Greek gods and goddess, neither aging nor getting ill, but this was not necessarily the case. Writers in late antiquity would give the lifespan of nymphs to be just under 10,000 years, and of course, nymphs were thought to die if the water source they were associated with dried up, or if trees were felled.

The Oceanids

The Oceanids - Gustave Doré (1832–1883) - PD-art-100
The Oceanids - Gustave Doré (1832–1883) - PD-art-100 | Source

Water Nymphs in Greek Mythology

The water nymphs are the most famous, and most common, nymphs of Greek mythology.

In general terms the water nymphs of Greek mythology can be classed as Oceanids, fresh-water nymphs, and Heliae, salt-water nymphs.

The Oceanids were the 3000 daughters of Oceanus, the earth encircling river god, and his wife, Tethys. These Oceanids were in charge of virtually all elements of fresh-water, although, depending on their domain, they were given different names.

The Naiads, were the Greek nymphs of springs and fountains, although the nymphs of springs might also be called Pegaeae, and the nymphs of fountains might be referred to as Crinaeae. There were also famously nymphs of the clouds, the Nephele.

The water nymphs of wetlands were the Heleionomae, the nymphs of the meadows were Leimenides, and the nymphs of the lakes were Limnatides. Occasionally spoken of were the nymphs of the rivers, the Potameides, but in Greek mythology, it was more commonly thought that male gods, the Potamoi, were associated with rivers.

The ancient Greeks also thought of fresh-water being found within the flowers and also the cooling breeze, and so these also had nymphs associated with them, with the Anthousai being the nymphs of flowers, and the Aurae being the nymphs of the breezes.

The Heliae were the salt-water nymphs of Greek mythology, with the most famous Heliae being the 50 Nereids, daughters of the sea god Nereus, and the Oceanid Doris. The Nereids were particularly associated with the Aegean Sea, and were commonly depicted as being part of the retinue of the Olympian era sea god, Poseidon.

Land Nymphs in Greek Mythology

Land nymphs, in Greek mythology, were the nymphs less often recorded in ancient texts, but occasionally reference would be made to the Alseides, the nymphs of the glens and groves, the Auloniades, nymphs of pastures and vales, the Napaeae, nymphs of wooded mountain valleys, and the Oreads, nymphs of the mountains, and therefore closely associated with the Ourea.

The Oreads

The Oreads - William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) - PD-art-100
The Oreads - William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) - PD-art-100 | Source

Wood Nymphs in Greek Mythology

Whilst the water nymphs were the most famous of the nymphs of Greek mythology, the Dryades, nymphs of the trees and forests, were also often written about.

In a similar way that the lifespan of an Oceanid might be linked to their water source, the lifespan of a Dryad might be linked to the life of a particular tree, often the tallest tree within a wood or forest.

The Dryades were also subdivided into different groups, with particular wood nymphs linked to a particular type of tree. Thus nymphs of oak trees were Hamadryades, nymphs of laurel trees were the Daphaneae, nymphs of fruit trees were the Meliades, Kissiae were nymphs of ivy, Oreiades were the nymphs of mountain pines or furs, and Meliae were nymphs of ash trees.

Epimeliades, nymphs of apple trees, were also commonly spoken of, but in addition to be nymphs of the trees, these nymphs were also considered to be guardians of sheep flocks.

In Greek mythology, nymphs could also be found away from a natural setting, and were quite often found as part of the retinue of a god or goddess. Where this occurred the nymphs might be referred to by a different name, and indeed, in the case of the nymphs accompanying Dionysus (Bacchus), the nymphs might be called Maenads, Bacchai or Thyiades.

Hylas and the Nymphs

Hylas and the Nymphs - John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) - PD-art-100
Hylas and the Nymphs - John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) - PD-art-100 | Source


Submit a Comment
  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    4 years ago

    Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and thanks for the compliment

  • Linnea Lewis profile image

    Linnea Lewis 

    4 years ago from South Carolina, USA

    Very interesting and beautiful hub, and I like the simple writing style. Enjoyed the reading.

  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    4 years ago

    Many thanks once again for taking the time to read and comment.

  • mactavers profile image


    4 years ago

    You've done it again. Another interesting Hub.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)