TELPHOUSA (or Telphusa) was the Naiad Nymph of the Telphousian spring of Mount Tilphousios in Boiotia (central Greece). She tried to trick Apollon into not building his shrine beside her spring and as punishment he buried her waters beneath a pile of stones.
Her names suggests that her waters were fetid and unsafe to drink, tiphos being a pool of standing water or marsh, and tilphê, filled with insect larvae. Such waters were bringers of disease, so it is appropriate that Apollon, as the averter of plague and disease, should vanquish her.
Telphousa appears to have been closely identified with the goddess Erinyes who were worshipped near her shrine on Mount Tilphousios. One of these goddesses was also titled Telphousia.
Probably a daughter of the River TERMESSOS
TILPHU′SA (Tilphousa). 1. The nymph of the well Tilphusa in Boeotia, which was sacred to Apollo. (Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. 247 ; Strab. ix. p. 410, &c.; Apollod. iii. 7. § 3.) 2. A surname of the Erinnys by whom Ares became the father of the dragon which was slain by Cadmus. (Müller, Orchom. p. 142, 2d ed.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 244 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"Then you [Apollon] went towards Telphousa [spring and its nymphe near Haliartos, Boiotia]: and there the pleasant place seemed fit for making a temple and wooded grove. You came very near and spoke to her: ‘Telphousa, here I am minded to make a glorious temple, and oracle for men, and hither they will always bring perfect hecatomgs, both those who live in rich Peloponnesos and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles, coming to seek oracles. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, giving answer in my rich temple.’
So said Phoibos Apollon, and laid out all the foundations throughout, wide and very long. But when Telphousa saw this, she was angry in heart and spoke saying: ‘Lord Phoibos, worker from afar, I will speak a word of counsel to your heart, since you are minded to make here a glorious temple to be an oracle for men who will always bring hither prefect hecatombs for you; yet I will speak out, and do you lay up my words in you heart. The trampling of swift horses and the sound of mules watering at my sacred springs will always irk you, and men will like better to gaze at the well-made chariots and stamping, swift-footed horses than at you great temple and the mnay treasures that are within. But if you will be moved by me--for you, lord, are stronger and mightier than I, and your strength is very great--build Krisa below the glades of Parnassos: there no bright chariot will clash, and there will be no noise of swift-foooted horses near you well-built altar. But so the glorious tribes of men will bring gifts to you as Iepaieon [Hail-Healer], and you will receive with delight rich sacrifices from the people dwelling round about.’
So said Telphousa that she alone, and not the far-shooter, should have renown there; and she persuaded the Far-Shooter . . .
Then [after slaying Python at Krisa] saw that the sweet-flowing spring (krene kallirhoe) had beguiled him, and he started out in anger against Telphousa; and soon coming to her, he stood close by and spoke: ‘Telphousa, you were not, after all, to keep to yourself this lovely place by deceiving my mind, and pour forth your clear flowing water: here my renown shall also be and not yours alone?’
Thus spoke the lord, far-working Apollon, and pushed over upon her a crag with a shower of rocks, hiding her streams: and he made himself an altar in a wooded grove very near the clear-flowing stream. In that place all men pray to the great one by the name Telphousion, because he humbled the stream of holy Telphousa."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 33. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mount Tilphousios (Telphusius) [in Boiotia] and the spring called Tilphousa (Tilphusa) are about fifty stades away from Haliartos. The Greeks declare that the Argives, along with the sons of Polyneikes, after capturing Thebes, were bringing Teiresias and some other of the spoil to the god at Delphoi, when Teiresias, being thirsty, drank by the wayside of the Tilphousa, and forthwith gave up the ghost; his grave is by the spring . . .
At Haliartos [in Boiotia] there is in the open a sanctuary of the goddesses they call Praxidikai (Those who exact punishments) [the Erinyes]. Here they swear, but they do not make the oaths rashly. The sanctuary of the goddesses is near Mt Tilphousios."
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th BC
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD