THE NYMPHAI AIAIAI were Naiad and Dryad Nymphs of the mythical island of Aiaia (Aeaea). They were handmaidens in the retinue of the resident goddess Kirke (Circe).
Homer, Odyssey 10. 348 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Four handmaids of hers [the witch Kirke (Circe)] were busying themselves about the palace. She has them for her household tasks, and they come from springs (krênai) [Krenaides], they come from groves (alsea) [Alseides], they come from the sacred rivers (potamoi) flowing seawards [Potameides]. One spread the chairs with fine crimson covers above and with linen cloths beneath; in front of the chairs, a second drew up silver tables on which she laid gold baskets for bread; a third mixed honey-sweet lovely wine in a silver bowl sand set the golden goblets out; the fourth brought water and lit a great fire under a massive cauldron. The water warmed; and when it boiled in the bright bronze vessel, the goddess made me [Odysseus] sit in a bath and bathed me."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 708 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Holding it [a suckling pig] over them [Jason and Medea] she [the witch Kirke (Circe)] cut its throat and let the blood fall on their hands. Next she propitiated Zeus with other libations, calling on him as the Cleanser, who listens to a murderer's prayers with friendly ears. Then the attendant Naiades who did her [Kirke the witch] housework carried all the refuse out of doors."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 248 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"As soon as we [the men of Odysseus] arrived and reached the portal [of the palace of Kirke], lions, bears and wolves, hundreds of them together, rushed at us and filled our hearts with fear; but fear we found was false; they meant no single scratch of harm. No, they were gentle and they wagged their tails and fawned on us and followed us along, until the maids-in-waiting welcomed us and led us through the marble vestibule into their mistress' presence. There she sat, in a fine chamber, on a stately throne, in purple robe and cloak of woven gold; and in attendance Nymphae and Nereides, whose nimble fingers never comb a fleece nor spin a skein, but sort and set in baskets grasses and flowers, heaped in disarray, and herbs of many hues; and as they work she guides and watches, knowing well the lore of every leaf, what blend is best, and checks them closely as the plants are weighed. She saw us then and, salutations made, her welcome seemed an answer to our prayers. At once she bade the servants mix a brew of roasted barley, honey and strong wine and creamy curds, and then, to be disguised in the sweet taste, she poured her essences. We took the bowls she handed (magic hands!). Our throats were dry and thirsty; we drank deep; and then the demon goddess lightly laid her wand upon our hair, and instantly bristles began to sprout."
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C9th-8th BC
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd BC
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD