TRITONIS was the Haliad nymph of the salt-water lake Tritonis, in Libya, North Africa. In the story of the birth of the Libyan Athena, Triton (a Libyan sea-god sometimes identified with Poseidon) and Tritonis (the goddess of the salt lake Tritonis), were the parents of two daughters, the Libyan Athena and Pallas. The first daughter accidentally killed the second in a mock battle, a story which was reenacted by the Makhlyes and Ausean tribes in an annual festival. She also had two sons by Amphithemis (if this is the same Tritonis) named Kephalion and Nasamon, who were founding kings of the two Libyan tribes.
Tritonis appears to be closely related to the Timeoroi Libyes (Guardian Spirits of Libya), who nursed the young Athena. She was perhaps also identified with Benthesikyme, a North African sea-nymphe, who like Tritonis was married to a local sea-god (Enalos), and had two daughters. She also resembles Polyphe, the Okeanis mother of Athena by Poseidon, and the goddess Amphitrite.
|[1.1] ATHENE (by Poseidon) (Herodotus 4.180, Pausanias 1.14.6)
[1.2] ATHENE, PALLAS (by Triton) (reconstructed from Apollodorus 3.144)
[2.1] KEPHALION, NASAMON (by Amphithemis) (Apollonius Rhodius 4.1493, Hyginus Fab 14)
TRITO′NIS (Tritônis). A nymph of lake Tritonis in Libya, who according to an ancient tradition was the mother of Athena by Poseidon. (Herod. iv. 180.) By Amphithemis she became the mother of Nasamon and Caphaurus. (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1495.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Herodotus, Histories 4. 180 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"[The tribes of Libya:] Next to the Makhlyes (Machlyes) are the Auseans; these and the Makhlyes, separated by the Triton, live on the shores of Lake Tritonis. The Makhlyes wear their hair long behind, the Auseans in front. They celebrate a yearly festival of Athena, where their maidens are separated into two bands and fight each other with stones and sticks, thus, they say, honoring in the way of their ancestors that native goddess whom we call Athena. Maidens who die of their wounds are called false virgins. Before the girls are set fighting, the whole people choose the fairest maid, and arm her with a Korinthian helmet and Greek panoply, to be then mounted on a chariot and drawn all along the lake shore. With what armor they equipped their maidens before Greeks came to live near them, I cannot say; but I suppose the armor was Egyptian; for I maintain that the Greeks took their shield and helmet from Egypt. As for Athena, they say that she was daughter of Poseidon and Lake Tritonis, and that, being for some reason angry at her father, she gave herself to Zeus, who made her his own daughter. Such is their tale. The intercourse of men and women there is promiscuous; they do not cohabit but have intercourse like cattle. When a woman's child is well grown, the men assemble within three months and the child is adjudged to be that man's whom it is most like."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 144 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"They say that after Athene's birth, she was reared by Triton [or Tritonis], who had a daughter named Pallas. Both girls cultivated the military life, which once led them into contentious dispute. As Pallas was about to give Athene a whack, Zeus skittishly held out the aegis, so that she glanced up to protect herself, and thus was wounded by Athene and fell. Extremely saddened by what had happened to Pallas, Athene fashioned a wooden likeness of her, and round its breast tied the aegis which had frightened her, and set the statue beside Zeus and paid it honour."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1493 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Amphithemis, the son of Apollon and Akakallis (Acacallis):] He married the Nymphe Tritonis and she gave him two sons, Nasamon and the powerful Kaphauros."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 14. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Libyans have a saying that the Goddess [Athena] is the daughter of Poseidon and Lake Tritonis, and for this reason has blue eyes like Poseidon."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 14 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"On the return trip [of the Argonauts] Eurybates, son of Teleon died, and Canthus, son of . . ((lacuna)) They were slain in Libya by the shepherd Cephalion, brother of Nasamon, son of the Nymph Tritonis and Amphithemis, whsoe flocks they were plundering.”
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.