Greek Mythology >> Nymphs >> Hecaterides (Hekaterides)


Greek Name

Ἑκατερις Ἑκατεριδες


Hekateris Hekaterides

Latin Spelling

Hecateris Hecaterides


Dance of Moving Hands

THE HEKATERIDES (Hecaterides) were five nymphs of the rustic dance. They were sisters of the Daktyloi (Dactys) and the mothers of the Satyroi (Satyrs), Oreiades (Oread Nymphs) and Kouretes (Curetes).

Their name was associated with two words--hekateris, a country dance involving the moving of hands (kheiron kinesis), and hekateros, a high-leaping country dance in which the feet were kicked high towards the buttocks. The two words were probably derived from either heka and teras meaning "marvellous hundred" or hekateros "each of two."

The five sisters and five brothers were known collectively as Daktyloi (Dactyls) "Fingers"--for their number corresponded with the ten fingers of the hands--, and also Hekaterides "Marvellous Hundred"--for as a group they were endowed with a hundred fingers (ten sets of ten fingers).
The male and female Daktyloi were joined in marriage, "finger to finger", like the harmonious folding of the hands, and from their union were born the Satyroi, Oreiades, and dancing Kouretes. The Kouretes were the protectors of Zeus and/or the first human tribe of the island Krete (Crete), while the Oreiades were nymphs of the mountain-forests.

The Hekaterides were probably identified with the Meliai (Meliae)--sister-wives of the Kouretes--and the Nymphai Kabeirides--orgiastic goddesses of the Samothrakian Mysteries. Their name also suggests some connection with Hekate, an important goddess of the Mysteries.




THE OREIADES, THE SATYROI, THE KOURETES (by the Daktyloi) (Hesiod Frag 6, Strabo 10.3.19)


Hesiod, Fragments of Unknown Position 6 (from Strabo 10.3.19) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Hesiod says that five daughters were born to Hekateros (Hecaterus) and the daughter of Phoroneus, ‘But of them were born the divine Nymphai Oreiades (Oread Nymphs) (of the Mountains) and the tribe of worthless, helpless Satyroi (Satyrs), and the divine Kouretes (Curetes), sportive dancers.’" [N.B. Phoroneus was the first mortal king.]

Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 19 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Further, one might also find . . . these daimones [i.e. the Kouretes (Curetes), Satyroi (Satyrs) and Oreiades (Oreads)] . . . were called, not only ministers of gods, but also gods themselves. For instance, Hesiod says that five daughters were born to Hekateros (Hecaterus) and the daughter of Phoroneus, ‘from whom sprang the mountain-ranging Nymphai (Nymphs), goddesses, and the breed of Satyroi (Satyrs), creatures worthless and unfit for work, and also the Kouretes (Curetes), sportive gods, dancers.’"

Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 22 :
"Sophokles (Sophocles) [tragedian C5th B.C.] thinks that the first male Daktyloi (Dactyls) were five in number, who were the first to discover and to work iron, as well as many other things which are useful for the purposes of life, and that their sisters [probably the Hekaterides] were five in number, and that they were called Daktyloi (Fingers) from their number [i.e. because there were ten--five male and five female]."




A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.