Greek Mythology >> Nymphs >> Naiads >> Ismenis


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Of the Ismenus (river)

ISMENIS was a Naiad-nymph of the River Ismenos near Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece). She was loved by the god Pan and bore him a son named Krenaios (Crenaeus) "Of the Springs"--a warrior of the war of the Seven Against Thebes.

Ismenis was loosely identified with her grandmother Melia, the nymph of the Ismenian spring.


ISMENOS (Statius Thebaid 9.318)


KRENAIOS (by Pan) (Statius Thebaid 9.318)


Statius, Thebaid 9. 318 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[During the war of the Seven Against Thebes :] Crenaeus, the youthful son of Faunus [Pan] and the Nympha Ismenis, rejoiced to fight in his mother's water [the river Ismenus]--Crenaeus, who first saw the light in the trusted stream and was cradles in the green banks of his native river. So thinking that there the Elysian Sisters [Moirai (Fates)] had no power, merrily, now from this bank now from that, he crosses his caressing grandsire [the river Ismenus] : the wave supports his footsteps, whether he go downstream or athwart the flood; nor when he goes counter does the River one whit delay him, but flows backward likewise . . . Then bold alike with weapons and saucy speech he challenges Hippomedon : ‘This is no poisonous Lerna, no Herculaean Hydras drink thesee waters, 'tis a sacred River that thou art defiling, ay, sacred,--so shalt thou find it to thy cost, thou wretch!--and gods have been nourished by its streams.’
Nought said the other, but advanced upon him; in a denser mass the flood resisted him, and checked his hand, but yet he drave home the wound for all his hindering, and pierced utterly life's secret chambers. The River [Ismenus] shuddered at the horrid deed, ye woods on either shore lamented, and deeper groans resounded from the hollow banks. From his dying lips came the last cry : ‘Mother!’ As he uttered it, the waters choked the poor lad's voice.
But his mother [Ismenis], amid her company of silvery-gleaming [Naiad] sisters, leapt up straightway from the sea-green valley at the shock of doom, frenzied, with loosened hair, and in wild grief rent with many a blow her face and bosom and green robe. Forth from the waves she burst, and with trembling voice again and again she cries out ‘Crenaeus’ : nowhere was he to be seen, but on the flood there floats his shield, a mark, alas! his unhappy parent must recognise too well; he himself lies far off, where on the bounds of mingling sea and river Ismenos suffers his last charge . . .
Once more the bereaved mother sinks, and hidden in the watery depths she searches in vain for her dead son by many a track, where the path shines clear before her as she goes--searches and yet bewails; ofttimes the bristling river check her, and a bloody haze obscures her vision. Yet in mad haste she flings herself on weapons and swords, and thrusts her hand into helmets and turns over prostrate corpses; nor drawing nigh the deep did she enter the bitter brine of Doris, until a band of Nereides pitying her wafted his body, now in the keeping of the ocean-billows, to his mother's breast. Embracing him as though he lived she brings him home and lays him on the sloping bank and with soft tresses dries his wet face, and cries amid loud lament : ‘Is this the gift thy half-divine parents and thy immortal grandsire have given thee? Is it thus thou reignest in our flood? Unhappy boy! gentler was the discordant alien earth, gentler the ocean wave, which brought back thy body to the river and seemed to await thy hapless mother's coming. Are these my lineaments? Are these the yes of thy fierce sire? Are these thy billowy grandsire's tresses? Once wert thou the price and glory of wave and woodland, and whilst thou livedst I was held a greater goddess and the queen of Nymphae. Where alas! is that late crowd of courtiers round thy mother's halls, where are the Napaeae (Maidens of the Glen) that prayed to serve thee? Why do I now bring thee home, Crenaeus, in my sad embrace, not for myself but for thy burial, who hadst better remained there in the cruel deep? Hard-hearted father [the river Ismenus], hast thou no pity nor shame for such a death? What lake profound and inescapable hath engulfed thee in the river's depths, so that nor thy grandson's cruel fate nor my own weeping reach thee there? Lo! Hippomedon rages and boasts himself the master in thy flood, and banks and waves tremble before him; his was the stroke hat made the water drink our blood; but thou art sluggish, and the fierce Pelasgians' acquiescent slave! Come at least, cruel sire, to the ashes and last obsequies of thy own, for 'tis no thy grandson only whose pyre thou shalt kindle here.’
With her words she mingles wailing, and stains with blood her innocent bosom, while the caerulean sisters [Naiades] re-echo her lament . . .
One of the Nymphae (Nymphs) meets her father [Ismenus] and tells him of his daughter's tears and his grandson's fate, and shows him the bloodstained author of the deed and seizes his right hand; high he stands in the deep river, and smiting his face and horns entwined with green sedge. [The River attempts to drown Hippomedon, slayer of his daughter's son.]"




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