THE THRIAI (Thriae) were three prophetic nymphs of Mount Parnassos in Phokis (central Greece). They were minor goddesses of the art of divinitation by pebbles and of the birds of omen which were gifted to Hermes by the god Apollon. They were apparently envisaged as nymphs with the heads of women and the bodies of bees.
The Thriai may have been identified with the Korykiai, nymphs of the prophetic springs of Mount Parnassos, or with the Nymphai Themeides, daughters of the oracular goddess Themis. They also appear to be related to the Melissai (Mellissae), bee and honey nymphs.
N.B. An ancient relief in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston depicting a goddess with the head of a woman and the body of a bee may be one of the Thriai.
THRIAE (Thriai), the name of three prophetic nymphs on Mount Parnassus, by whom Apollo was reared, and who were believed to have invented the art of prophecy by means of little stones (thriai), which were thrown into an urn. (Hom. Hymn. in Merc. 552 ; Schol. ad Callim. Hymn. in Apoll. 45 ; comp. Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 814.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 550 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Apollon addresses Hermes :] ‘There are certain holy ones, sisters born--three virgins gifted with wings : their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassos (Parnassus). These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak the truth; but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together. These, then, I give you; enquire of them strictly and delight you heart: and if you should teach any mortal so to do often will he hear your response--if he have good fortune. Take these, Son of Maia . . .’
So he spake. And from heaven father Zeus himself gave confirmation to his words, and commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen . . . and also that he only should be the appointed messenger to Aides (Hades), who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize."
[Evelyn-White's commentary : The Thriai, who practised divination by means of pebbles (also called thriai). In this hymn they are represented as aged maidens, but are closely associated with bees and possibly are here conceived as having human heads and breasts with the bodies and wings of bees.]
Callimachus, Hecale Fragment 260 (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The Thriai (Thriae) inspired the old crow." [N.B. The "crow" could be a bird of omen or an elderly seeress.]
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
Other references not currently quoted here: Philochorus 1C, Scholiast on Callimachus Hymn to Apollo 45.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.