Nymphs of Lycaeus
THE NYMPHAI LYKAIIDES were nine nymphs of Mount Lykaios (Lycaeus) in Arkadia (southern Greece) who assisted the Titaness Rhea in labour and nursed the infant god Zeus.
Three of the Lykaiides were Naiad-nymphs of the mountain--Hagno possessed a spring on the slopes, Neda a mountain stream, and Theisoa a fountain in the valley. The other four, Oinoe, Glauke, Phrixa, and Alkinoe, were probably also Naiades of specific springs. The eighth, named Anthrakia, was a torch-bearing nymph, which might suggest a Dryad. The ninth, Ida, is apparently the Kretan nymph of the same name who nursed Zeus in the Diktaion cave.
The multiplication of the number of nurses to nine was probably a late construct. In the original version Zeus appears to have had three nymph and three Kouretes (Curetes) protectors. The number of Kouretes was later increased to nine, and the nymph nurses apparently multiplied to match. The Nymphai Lykaiides were closely identified with the Nymphai Idaiai (Idaean Nymphs), the usual nurses of Zeus on the island of Krete.
FAMILY OF THE NYMPHS
HAGNO (Hagnô) an Arcadian nymph, who is said to have brought up Zeus. On Mount Lycaeus in Arcadia there was a well sacred to and named after her. When the country was suffering from drought, the priest of Zeus Lycaeus, after having offered up prayers and sacrifices, touched the surface of the well with the branch of an oak tree, whereupon clouds were formed immediately which refreshed the country with rain. The nymph Hagno was represented at Megalopolis carrying in one hand a pitcher and in the other a patera. (Paus. viii. 38, § 3, 31. § 2, 47. § 2.)
ITHO′ME (Ithômê), a nymph from whom the Messenian hill of Ithome derived its name. According to a Messenian tradition, Ithome and Neda, from whom a small river of the country derived its name, were said to have nursed Zeus, and to have bathed the infant god in the well Clepsydra. (Paus. iv. 33. § 2.)
NEDA (Neda), an Arcadian nymph, from whom the river Neda and also a town (Steph. Byz. s. v.) derived their name. She was believed, conjointly with Theisoa and Hagno, to have nursed the infant Zeus (Callim. Hymn. in Jov. 38; Paus. viii. 38. § 3). In a Messenian tradition Neda and Ithome were called nurses of Zeus (Paus. iv. 33. § 2). She was represented at Athens in the temple of Athena. (Paus. viii. 47. § 2.)
OE′NOE (Oinoê). An Arcadian nymph, who is said to have been one of those that brought up the infant Zeus. (Paus. viii. 47. § 2.)
THEISOA (Theisoa), one of the nymphs who brought up the infant Zeus, was worshipped at Theisoa in Arcadia. (Paus. viii. 38. §§ 3, 7, 47. § 2.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 38. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is a place on Mount Lykaios (Lycaeus) [in Arkadia] called Kretea (Cretea) . . . The Arkadians claim that the Krete (Crete), where the Kretan story has it that Zeus was reared, was this place and not the island. The Nymphai (Nymphs), by whom they say that Zeus was reared, they call Theisoa, Neda and Hagno. After Theisoa was named a city in Parrhasia; Theisoa today is a village in the district of Megalopolis. From Neda the river Neda takes its name; from Hagno a spring on Mount Lykaios, which like the Danube flows with an equal volume of water in winter just as in the season of summer."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 31. 4 :
"[In the temple of Demeter and Persephone at Megalopolis in Arkadia :] The table also has a representation of Nymphai, Neda carrying the infant Zeus and another Arkadian nymphe Anthrakia (Anthracia) holding a torch, and Hagno with a water-jar in one hand and a drinking cup in the other; Ankhiroe (Anchiroe) and Myrtoessa are carrying water-jars and in fact water is pouring down from them."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 41. 1 :
"A river called the Lymax flowing just beside Phigalia falls into the Neda, and the river, they say, got its name from the cleaning of Rhea. For when she had given birth to Zeus, the Nymphai (Nymphs) who cleansed her after her travail threw the refuse into this river. Now the ancients called refuse [afterbirth] lymata."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 47. 3 :
"[In the temple of Athene at Tegea in Arkadia :] Represented on the altar are Rhea and the nymphe Oinoe (Oenoe) holding the baby Zeus. On either side are four figures : on one, Glauke (Glauce), Neda, Theisoa and Anthrakia (Anthracia); on the other Ide (Ida), Hagno, Alkinoe (Alcinoe) and Phrixa.There are also images of the [nine] Mousai (Muses) and of Mnemosyne." [N.B. Rhea and the nine Nymphai are artistically balanced against Mnemosyne and the nine Mousai (Muses).]
NAMES OF THE NYMPHS
Of the Neda (river)
Of Theisoa (town)
Pure, Holy (hagnô)
Of Ida (mountain)
Strong-Mind (alkê, noos)
Wine (oinos), Rock Dove (oinas)
Charcoal, Embers (anthrakia)
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.