THETIS was the leader of the fifty Nereides.
This page describes the capture of Thetis by the hero Peleus and their wedding, attended by the gods.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
THE WEDDING OF PELEUS & THETIS
Homer, Iliad 24. 59 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hera speaks :] ‘Akhilleus (Achilles) is the child of a goddess, one whom I myself nourished and brought up and gave her as a bride to her husband Peleus, one dear to the hearts of the immortals, for you all went, you gods, to the wedding, and you too [Apollon] feasted among them and held you lyre.’"
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 57 (from Herculaeneum Papyri 2. 8. 104) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"The author of the Cypria says that Thetis, to please Hera, avoided union with Zeus, at which he was enraged and swore that she should be the wife of a mortal. Hesiod also has the like account."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 58 (from Strassburg Greek papyri 55) :
"Peleus the son of Aiakos (Aeacus), dear to the deathless gods, came to Phthia the mother of flocks, bringing great possessions from spacious Iolkos (Iolcus). And all the people envied him in their hearts seeing how he had sacked the well-built city, and accomplished his joyous marriage [to the goddess Thetis]; and they all spake this word : ‘Thrice, yea, four times blessed son of Aiakos, happy Peleus! For far-seeing Olympian Zeus has given you a wife with many gifts and the blessed gods have brought your marriage fully to pass, and in these halls you go up to the holy bed of a daughter of Nereus. Truly the father, the son of Kronos, made you very pre-eminent among heroes and honoured above other men who eat bread and consume the fruit of the ground.’"
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 59 (from Origen, Against Celsus 4.79) :
"[The wedding of Peleus and Thetis :] For in common then were the banquets, and in common the seats of deathless gods and mortal men."
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"The epic called Cypria which is current is eleven books. Its contents are as follows. Zeus plans with Themis to bring about the Trojan war. Eris (Strife) arrives while the gods are feasting at the marriage of Peleus [and Thetis] and starts a dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite as to which of them is fairest."
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 4 (from Herculaeneum Papyri 2. 8. 104) :
"The author of the Cypria says that Thetis, to please Hera, avoided union with Zeus, at which he was enraged and swore that she should be the wife of a mortal. Hesiod also has the like account."
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 5 (from Scholiast on Homer's Iliad 17. 140) :
"For at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the gods gathered together on Pelion to feast and brought Peleus gifts. Kheiron (Chiron) gave him a stout ashen shaft which he had cut for a spear, and Athena, it is said, polished it, and Hephaistos (Hephaestus) fitted it with a head. The story is given by the author of the Cypria."
Pindar, Pythian Ode 3 ep4 - ant5 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Yet a life free from care came neither to Peleus Aiakos' (Aeacus') son, nor to Kadmos that godlike king; though they of all men won, so men say, the highest bliss, who heard the Mousai (Muses) in golden diadems chanting their songs upon the mountain and within the seven gates of Thebes, when one [Kadmos (Cadmus)] took for his bride Harmonia, the dark-eyed maid, the other [Peleus] glorious Thetis, daughter of wise Nereus. And the gods shared their marriage feasts, and seated upon golden thrones beside them they saw the royal children of Kronos (Cronus), and received from them their wedding-gifts: and by the grace of Zeus were from their former toils uplifted, and peace was in their hearts established . . .
And Peleus' son, that one son whom the immortal Thetis in Phthia bore, gave up his life in the fore-front of war, to the sharp arrow's point."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 3 ant2 :
"And Thetis too the sea maid, he [Peleus] held struggling in his strong grasp."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 3 ant3 :
"For Nereus' daughter glorious in her fruit, he [Kheiron (Chiron)] set the marriage feast, and reared her peerless son [Akhilleus (Achilles)]."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 4 str8 :
"The fate destined by Zeus he [Peleus] made his own : devouring flames, and the sharp claws of fearless lions, and tearing teeth safely endured [i.e. as Thetis metamorphosed into varoius shapes], his Nereis (Nereid) bride he [Peleus] won from her high seat, and saw, round him enthroned, the gods of sky and sea proffer their gifts, foretelling the kingdom he and his race should rule."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 5 str2 :
"Yet for these men [Peleus and Telamon] the Mousai's (Muses') peerless choir glad welcome sang on Pelion [i.e. at Peleus' marriage to Thetis], and with them Apollon's seven-stringed lyre and golden quill led many a lovely strain. To Zeus a prelude, then sang they first divine Thetis, and Peleus."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 5 ep2 :
"Then from heaven beholding the king of the high gods, cloud-gathering Zeus, with nodding brow forthwith ordained a Sea-Nymphe [Thetis] of the golden-spindled Nereides his [Peleus'] bride would be, and to accept this kinship, enlisted Poseidon's favour."
Pindar, Isthmian Ode 8 str3 - str5 :
"When for marriage with Thetis there arose strife 'twixt Zeus and glorious Poseidon when each of the two gods would have her to be his lovely bride, for passion filled their hearts. But for them did the wisdom of the immortal gods not grant this union should come to pass, when to their ears came the prophetic oracle. For in their midst wise-counselled Themis told that it was ruled of fate that the sea-goddess should bring forth a son, of strength mightier than his father, whose hand should launch a shaft more powerful than the bolt of thunder or the fearsome trident, if she wed with Zeus or with his brothers. ‘Leave,’ said she, ‘From this design, but with a mortal let her bed be blessed, and let her see her son dying in war. Like Ares shall he be in strength of arm and in fleetness of foot like to the lightning flash. In my word you would hear, grant that her marriage be for an honour given of heaven to Peleus, the son of Aiakos (Aeacus), who, so they tell, is of all men most righteous, dwelling upon Iolkos' plain. And to the immortal cave of Kheiron (Chiron) let your bidding speedily take its way, nor let the ballot-leaves of strife be set amidst as twice by Nereus' daughter [Thetis]. But on the full-moon's eve let her for this hero unloose the lovely girdle of her pure maidenhood.’
Such words the goddess spoke to the children of Kronos (Cronus); and they nodded giving their assent with immortal brows. Nor was the fruit of these words cast away. For the two gods joined in their honours given to the wedding of maid Thetis."
Alcaeus, Fragment 42 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (Greek lyric C6th B.C.) :
"The delicate maiden [Thetis] whom the noble son [Peleus] of Aiakos (Aeacus), inviting all the blessed gods to the wedding, married, taking her from the halls of Nereus to the home of Kherronos [Kheiron (Chiron)]; he loosened the pure maiden's girdle, and the love of Peleus and the best of Nereus' daughters flourished; and within the year she bore a son [Akhilleus (Achilles)], the finest of demigods."
Melanippides, Fragment 765 (from Scholiast on Homer's Iliad) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric V) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"That is why Melanippides says that Thetis was pregnant by Zeus when she was given in marriage to Peleus because of the remarks of Prometheus or Themis [i.e. that she would bear a son greater than his father]."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 168 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Prometheus [chained by Zeus to a mountain crag]: Truly the day shall come when, although I am tortured in stubborn fetters, the prince of the blessed [Zeus] will need me to reveal the new design whereby he shall be stripped of his sceptre and his dignities [i.e. by a son born to him by Thetis]."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 519 ff :
"Chorus : What is fated for Zeus except to hold eternal sway? . . .
Prometheus : Think of some other subject, for it is not the proper time to speak of this. No matter what, this must be kept concealed; for it is by safeguarding it that I am to escape my dishonorable bonds and outrage." [N.B. Zeus eventually releases Prometheus in return for telling him the secret of which goddess would bear a son more powerful than he.]
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 761 ff :
"Io : By whom shall he be despoiled of the sceptre of his sovereignty?
Prometheus : By himself and his own empty-headed purposes.
Io : In what way? Oh tell me, if there be no harm in telling.
Prometheus : He shall make a marriage that shall one day cause him distress [i.e. with Thetis].
Io : With a divinity or with a mortal? If it may be told, speak out.
Prometheus : Why ask with whom? I may not speak of this.
Io : Is it by his consort that he shall be dethroned?
Prometheus : Yes, since she shall bear a son mightier than his father.
Io : And has he no means to avert this doom?
Prometheus : No, none--except me, if I were released from bondage."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 907 ff :
"Prometheus : Yes, truly, the day will come when Zeus, although stubborn of soul, shall be humbled, seeing that he plans a marriage [i.e. with the goddess Thetis] that shall hurl him into oblivion from his sovereignty and throne; and then immediately the curse his father Kronos (Cronus) invoked as he fell from his ancient throne, shall be fulfilled to the uttermost. Deliverance from such ruin no one of the gods can show him clearly except me. I know the fact and the means. So let him sit there in his assurance, putting his trust in the crash reverberating on high and brandishing his fire-breathing bolt in his hands. For these shall not protect him from falling in ignominious and unendurable ruin. Such an adversary is he now preparing despite himself, a prodigy irresistible, even one who shall discover a flame mightier than the lightning and a deafening crash to outroar the thunder; a prodigy who shall shiver the trident, Poseidon's spear, that scourge of the sea and shaker of the land. Then, wrecked upon this evil, Zeus shall learn how different it is to be a sovereign and a slave."
Aeschylus, Fragment 189 (from Plato, Republic 2. 383B) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Thetis complains that Apollon prophesied a happy motherhood at her wedding yet guided the shaft which killed her son :] ‘He dwelt on my happiness in my children, whose days were to be many and unacquainted with disease; and, comprising all, in triumph-strain that cheered my soul, he praised my lot, blest of the gods. And so I deemed that falsehood sat not upon Phoibos' (Phoebus') lips divine, fraught with the prophet's art. But he, who raised this song himself, he who himself was present at my marriage-feast, he who himself spake thus, he it is who himself hath slain my son [Akhilleus (Achilles)].’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 168 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Next he [Peleus] married Nereus' daughter Thetis, over whom Zeus and Poseidon had been rivals. But when Themis had predicted that the son of Thetis would be stronger than his father, they bowed out. Some say that, when Zeus was eager to have sex with Thetis, Prometheus told him that his son by her would take over dominion of the sky. Others say that Thetis was unwilling to have sex with Zeus because she had been reared by Hera, and that Zeus in fury wanted to marry her off to a mortal. At any rate, Kheiron (Chiron) warned Peleus to grab Thetis and hold on while she changed her form; so he watched for his chance and carried her off, and, although she changed into fire and then water and then a wild animal, he did not release her until he saw that she had returned to her original shape. They were married on Pelion and the gods celebrated the marriage with hymns and a banquet."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 757 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Hera addresses Thetis :] ‘I brought you up myself and loved you more than any other Lady of the Sea because you rejected the amorous advances of my consort Zeus. He, of course, has made a habit of such practices and sleeps with goddesses and girls alike. But you were frightened and out of your regard for me you would not let him have his will. In return for which he took a solemn oath that you should never be the bride of an immortal god. Yet in spite of your refusal he did not cease to keep his eye on you, till the day when the venerable Themis made him understand that you were destined to bear a son who would be greater than his father. When he heard this, Zeus gave you up though he still desired you. He wished to keep his power forever and was terrified at the thought that he might meet his match and be supplanted as the King of Heaven. Then, in the hope of making you a happy bride and mother, I chose Peleus, the noblest man alive, to be your husband; I invited all the gods and goddesses to the wedding-feast; and I carried the bridal torch myself, in return for the goodwill and deference you had shown me.’"
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 3. 580 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[Thetis speaks :] ‘Zeus promised me to make him [her son Akhilleus (Achilles)] glorious in the Aiakid (Aeacid) halls, in recompense for the bridal [to Peleus] I so loathed that into wild wind now I changed me, now to water, now in fashion as a bird I was, now as the blast of flame; nor might a mortal win me for his bride, who seemed all shapes in turn that earth and heaven contain, until the Olympian pledged him to bestow a godlike son on me, a lord of war. Yea, in a manner this did he fulfil faithfully; for my son was mightiest of men.’"
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 3. 96 ff :
"[Hera rebukes Apollon for slaying Akhilleus (Achilles) :] ‘What deed of outrage, Phoibos (Phoebus), hast thou done this day, forgetful of that day whereon to godlike Peleus' spousals gathered all the Immortals? Yea, amidst the feasters thou sangest how Thetis silver-footed left the sea's abysses to be Peleus' bride; and as thou harpedst all earth's children came to hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills, rivers, and all the deep-shadowed forests came. All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought a ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man, albeit thou with other Gods didst pour the nectar, praying that he might be the son by Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer hast thou forgotten . . . how wilt thou meet the Nereis' (Nereid's) eyes when she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods, who priased thee once, and loved as her own son?’"
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 48 ff :
"Zeus, Lightning-father . . . the fair-haired bride [Thetis] whom once to Peleus thou didst give to wife midst Pelion's glens. Thyself didst bring to pass those spousals of a Goddess : on that day all we Immortals feasted there, and gave gifts passing-fair."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 128 ff :
"[At the funeral Games of Akhilleus (Achilles) :] Now in their midst he [Nestor] sang the gracious Queen of Nereides [Thetis], sang how she in willsomeness of beauty was of all the Sea-maids (Einaliai) chief. Well-pleased she hearkened. Yet again he sang, singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight, which all the blest Immortals brought to pass by Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast when the swift Horai (Horae, Hours) brought in immortal hands meats not of earth, and heaped in golden mauds; sang how the silver tables were set forth in haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang how breathed Hephaistos purest flame of fire; sang how the Nymphai (Nymphs) in golden chalices mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance twined by the Kharites' (Charites', Graces') feet; sang of the chant the Mousai (Muses) raised, and how its spell enthralled all mountains, rivers, all the forest brood; how raptured was the infinite firmament, Kheiron's (Chiron's) fair caverns, yea, the very Gods."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 73 ff :
"[Amongst the scenes depicted on the shield of Akhilleus (Achilles) :] And there were lordly Nereus' daughters [the Nereides] shown leading their sister [Thetis] up from the wide sea to her espousals with the warrior-king [Peleus]. And round her all the Immortals banqueted on Pelion's ridge far-stretching. All about lush dewy watermeads there were, bestarred with flowers innumerable, grassy groves, and springs with clear transparent water bright."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 334 ff :
"Against the wise Prometheus bitter-wroth the Sea-maids [the Nereides] were, remembering how that Zeus, moved by his prophecies, unto Peleus gave Thetis to wife, a most unwilling bride."
Plato, Republic 383b (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Nor shall we approve of Aiskhylos (Aeschylus) when his Thetis avers that Apollon singing at her wedding, ‘foretold the happy fortunes of her issue’ ‘Their days prolonged, from pain and sickness free, and rounding out the tale of heaven's blessings, raised the proud paian, making glad my heart. And I believed that Phoibos' (Phoebus') [Apollon's] mouth divine, filled with the breath of prophecy, could not lie. But he himself, the singer, himself who sat at meat with us, himself who promised all, is now himself the slayer of my son.’
When anyone says that sort of thing about the gods, we shall be wroth with him."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 18. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the chest of Kypselos (Cypselus) at Olympia :] There is also a figure of Thetis as a maid; Peleus is taking hold of her, and from the hand of Thetis a snake is darting at Peleus."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 6 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"When he [Zeus] came to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, he brought these wings as a gift for Thetis [i.e. the ankle-wings of the Titaness Arke (Arce) which Thetis would one day attach to the feet of her son Akhilleus (Achilles)].
Peleus, it is said, received on the occasion of his marriage a sword from Hephaistos (Hephaestus), from Aphrodite a piece of jewelry on which was engraved an Eros (Love), from Poseidon some horses, Xanthos and Balios, from Hera a chlamyde, from Athena a flute, from Nereus a basket of the salt called ‘divine’; and which has an irresistable virtue for the appetite, the taste of food and their digestion, whence the expression ‘she poured the divine salt.’"
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 54 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"A prediction about Thetis, the Nereid, was that her son would be greater than his father. Since no one but Prometheus knew this, and Jove [Zeus] wished to lie with her, Prometheus promised Jove [Zeus] that he would give him timely warning if he would free him from his chains. And so when the promise was given he advised Jove [Zeus] not to lie with Thetis, for if one greater than he were born he might drive Jove from his kingdom, as he himself had done to Saturn [Kronos (Cronus)]. And so Thetis was given in marriage to Peleus, son of Aeacus, and Hercules was sent to kill the eagle which was eating out Prometheus' heart. When it was killed, Prometheus after thirty thousand years was freed from Mount Caucasus."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 92 :
"Jove [Zeus] is said to have invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis all the gods except Eris, or Discord. When she came later and was not admitted to the banquet, she threw an apple through the door, saying that the fairest should take it. Juno [Hera], Venus [Aphrodite], and Minerva [Athene] claimed the beauty prize for themselves."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 15 :
"The following reason for the release of Prometheus has been handed down. When Jupiter [Zeus], moved by the beauty of Thetis, sought her in marriage, he couldn't win the consent of the timid maiden, but none the less kept planning to bring it about. At that time the Parcae (Fates) [Moirai] were said to have prophesied what the natural order of events should be. They said that the son of Thetis' husband, whoever he might be, would be more famous than his father. Prometheus heard this as he kept watch, not from inclination but from necessity, and reported it to Jove [Zeus]. He, fearing that what he had done to his father Saturnus [Kronos (Cronus)] in a similar situation, would happened to him, namely, that he would be robbed of his power, gave up by necessity his desire to wed Thetis, and out of gratitude to Prometheus thanked him and freed him from his chains."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 217 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Peleus had the glory of a goddess wife [Thetis] and pride in her great father [Nereus] just as strong as in his grandfather [Zeus]; for he, of course was not alone a grandson of great Jove [Zeus], but won alone a bride from heaven above. Old Proteus once had said to Thetis, ‘Bear a child, fair goddess of the waves. For you shall be the mother of a youth whose deeds in his brave years of manhood shall surpass his father's and he'll win a greater name.’
Therefore, for fear the world might ever have a greater than himself, Jove [Zeus] shunned the bed of Thetis, fair sea-goddess, though his heart was fired with no cool flame, and in his place as lover bade his grandson Aeacides [Peleus] take in his embrace the virgin of the waves. There is a curving bay in Haemoniae [Thessaly], shaped like a sickle; two long arms run out and were the water deeper there would be a harbour. Smooth across the shallow sand the sea extends; the shore is firm; it holds no footprints, slows no passage, slopes unlined by seaweed. Myrtles grow near by, a grove of double-coloured berries. In their midst there lies a grotto, formed maybe by art, maybe by nature, rather though by art, here Thetis used to come, naked, astride her bridled dolphin.
There, as she lay lapped in sleep, Peleus surprised her, winding his two strong arms around her neck. And had she not resorted to her arts and changed her shape so often, he'd have gained the end he dared. But first she was a bird--that bird he held; and then a sturdy tree--that tree he fastened on; her third shape was a stripy tigress--Aeacides [Peleus], terrified, released his hold on her and let her go. He prayed then to the Sea-gods (Di Pelagi), offering wine poured on the water, smoke of incense, flesh of sheep, till Carpathius [Proteus] from his briny deep said, ‘Aeacides [Peleus], you shall gain the bride you seek if, while she's sleeping in her rocky cave, you catch her off her guard and truss her tight with ropes that won't give way and, though she takes a hundred spurious shapes don't be deceived but grapple it, whatever it is until she forms again the shape she had before.’
So Proteus spoke and sank into the sea, his wavelets washing over his last words. Titan [Helios the Sun] was setting and his chariot sloped to the western waves, when the fair Nereis (Nereid) [Thetis] sought the grotto and resumed her usual couch. Peleus had barely touched her lovely limbs before from shape to shape she changed, until she felt her body trussed; her arms pinioned apart. And then at last, sighing, ‘with some god's help,’ she said, ‘you've won.’ And there revealed stood--Thetis. Self-confessed, he held her, hopes triumphant, to his side and filled with great Achilles his fair bride."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 130 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Argos adds paintings [to the hull of the ship Argo] of varied grace. One one side Thetis, whom a god had hoped to win, is being borne upon the back of a Tyrrhene fish to the bridal chamber of Peleus; the dolphin is speeding over the sea; she herself is sitting with her veil drawn down over her eyes, and is sorrowing that Achilles shall not be born greater than Jupiter [Zeus]. [The Nereides] Panope and her sister Doto and Galatea with bare shoulders, revelling in the waves, escort her towards the caverns."
Statius, Achilleid 1. 25 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"His [the kentauros Kheiron's (centaur Chiron's)] lofty home bores deep into the mountain, beneath the long, overarching vault of Pelion; part had been hollowed out by toil, part worn away by its own age. Yet the images and couches of the gods are shown, and the places that each had sanctified by his reclining and his sacred presence [at the marriage-feast of Peleus and Thetis]."
Statius, Achilleid 2. 55 ff :
"Verily that quarrel [of the goddesses Hera, Athene and Aphrodite] arose in thy [Achilles'] own glades, at a gathering of the gods, when pleasant Pelion made marriage feast for Peleus [and Thetis], and thou [Achilles] even then wert promised to our [the Greeks] armament."
Statius, Silvae 1. 2. 215 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Peleus [was led] to Thessalian Tempe, when Chiron high on his horse's body looked forth and beheld Thetis draw nigh to the Haemonian strand [and advised him how to capture her as his bride]."
Colluthus, Rape of Helen 14 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poetry C5th to 6th A.D.) :
"Among the high-peaked hills of the Haimonians [Thessalians], the marriage song of Peleus [and Thetis] was being sung while, at the bidding of Zeus, Ganymede poured the wine. And all the race of gods hasted to do honour to the white-armed bride [Thetis], own sister of Amphitrite : Zeus from Olympos and Poseidon from the sea. Out of the land of Melisseus, from fragrant Helikon (Helicon), Apollon came leading the clear-voiced choir of the Mousai (Muses). On either side, fluttering with golden locks, the unshorn cluster of his hair was buffeted by the west wind. And after him followed Hera, sister of Zeus; nor did the queen of harmony herself, even Aphrodite, loiter in coming to the groves of the Kentauros (Centaur) [Kheiron (Chiron)]. Came also Peitho (Persuasion), having fashioned a bridal wreath, carrying the quiver of archer Eros (Love). And Athene put off her mighty helmet from her brow and followed to the marriage, albeit of marriage she was untaught. Nor did Leto's daughter Artemis, sister of Apollon, disdain to come, goddess of the wilds though she was. And iron Ares, even as, helmetless nor lifting warlike spear, he comes into the house of Hephaistos (Hephaestus), in such wise without breastplate and without whetted sword danced smilingly. But Eris (Strife) did Kheiron leave unhonoured: Kheiron did not regard her and Peleus heeded her not . . .
And Eris (Strife) overcome by the pangs of angry jealousy, wandered in search of a way to disturb the banquet of the gods . . .
And now she bethought her of the golden apples of the Hesperides. Thence Eris took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple, and devised the scheme of signal woes. Whirling her arm she hurled into the banquet the primal seed of turmoil and disturbed the choir of goddesses. Hera, glorying to be the spouse and to share the bed of Zeus, rose up amazed, and would fain have seized it. And Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite], as being more excellent than all, desired to have the apple, for that it is the treasure of the Erotes (Loves). But Hera would not give it up and Athena would not yield."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 33. 355 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Thetis speaks :] ‘I am Thetis, like you an enemy marriage. I love maidenhood . . . yet Father Zeus drove me from heaven and would have dragged me into marriage, but that old Prometheus stopt his desires, by prophesying that I should bear a son stronger than Kronion [Zeus]; he wished that Thetis' boy should not some time overpower his father and drive out Kronides (Cronides) as high Zeus drove out Kronos.’"
THETIS & THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 136 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The ship [Argo] then came successively to Kharybdis (Charybdis), Skylla (Scylla), and the wandering rocks called Planktai (Planctae), beyond which a mighty flame and smoke were seen rising. But Hera sent for Thetis and the Nereides, who escorted the ship through these hazards."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 757 - 967 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Hera commands Iris :] ‘Dear Iris . . . speed away on your light wings and ask Thetis to come here to me out of the salt sea depths. I need her . . .’
Iris, spreading her light pinions, swooped down from Olympos and cleft the air. Plunging first into the Aigaion (Aegean) Sea where Nereus lives, she approached Thetis, delivered the message from Hera, and urged her to go to the goddess . . . Thetis, leaving Nereus and her sisters in the sea, reached Olympos and presented herself to Hera. The goddess made her take a seat beside her and disclosed her mind. ‘Listen, Lady Thetis,’ she said. ‘I was anxious to have a word with you. You know the strength of my regard for the noble son of Aison and the others who supported him in his ordeal . . . It still remains for them to pass the great cliff of Skylla and the gurgling whirlpool of Kharybdis (Charybdis). Now you will not have forgotten that I brought you up myself and loved you more than any other Lady of the Sea. [The story of the marriage of Thetis follows, see the section above.] . . . And there is something else that I must tell you, a prophecy concerning your son Akhilleus (Achilles), who is now with Kheiron (Chiron) the Kentauros (Centaur) and is fed by water-nymphs though he should be at you breast. When he comes to the Elysian Fields, it has been arranged that he shall marry Medea the daughter of Aeetes; so you, as her future mother-in-law, should be ready to help her now. Help Peleus too. Why are you still so angry with him? He was very foolish; but even the gods are sometimes visited by Ate (Delusion). It is for you to see that they [the Argonauts] come safely home. The only things I fear are the rocks and those tremendous waves. I count on you and your sisters to deal with these. And do not let [them] . . . fall into [the whirlpool]Kharybdis . . . [or] go too near the hateful den of Ausonian Skylla (Scylla) . . . What you must do is to guide the ship that they escape disaster, if only by a hair's breadth.’
Thetis replied : ‘If the fury of the flames and the storm winds is indeed to be abated, I am confident. Given a fresh breeze from the west, I shall bring Argo safely through, whatever seas she may encounter. But time presses and I have a long way to go, first to my sisters to enlist their help, then to the place where the ship is moored to induce the men to sail at dawn if they wish to reach their homes.’
With that, Thetis dropped from the sky and plunged into the turmoil of the dark blue sea. There she called to all her sister Nereides to help her. They heard her call, and when they had assembled Thetis told them what Hera wished and sent them speeding off to the Ausonian Sea. She herself, quick as the twinkle of an eye or the sun's rays when he springs from the world's rim, sped through the water to the beach of Aia (Aea) on the Tyrrhenian coast. She found the young lords by their ship, passing the time with quoits and archery. Drawing near, she touched the hand of the lord Peleus, who was her husband. The rest saw nothing. She appeared to him only and to him she said : ‘You and your friends have sat here long enough. In the morning you must cast off the hawsers of you gallant ship in obedience to Hera. She is your friend and has arranged for the Nereides to foregather quickly and bring Argo safely through the Wandering Rocks, as they are called, that being the way you must follow. But when you see me coming with the rest do not point me out to anyone. Keep my appearance to yourself, or you will make me angrier that you did when you treated me in such a brutal fashion.’ And with that she vanished into the depths of the sea.
Her husband felt a pang of remorse. He had never set eyes on her since the night when in a rage she had left her bridal bed. They had quarrelled about the illustrous Akhilleus (Achilles). He was a baby then, and in the middle of the night she used to surround her mortal child with fire and every day anoint his tender flesh with ambrosia, to make him immortal and save him from the horrors of old age. One night Peleus, leaping out of bed, saw his boy gasping in the flames and gave a terrible cry. It was a foolish thing to do. Thetis heard, and snatching up the child threw him screaming on the floor. Then, passing quickly out of the house, light as a dream and insubstantial as the air, she plunged into the sea. She was mortally offended and she never returned.
The Argonauts sailed on in gloom . . . great seas were booming on the Wandering Rocks . . . The Nereides swimming in from all directions, met them here, and Lady Thetis coming up astern laid her hand on the blade of the steering-oar to guide them through the Wandering Rocks. While she played the steersman's part, Nymphe after Nymphe kept leaping from the sea and swimming round Argo, like a school of dolphins gambolling round a moving ship in sunny weather, much to the entertainment of the crew as they see them darting up, now aft, now ahead, and now abeam. But just as they were about to strike the Rocks, the Sea-Nymphs, holding their skirts up over their white knees, began to run along on top of the reefs and breaking waves following each other at intervals on either side of the ship. Argo, caught in the current, was tossed to right and left. Angry seas rose up all round her and crashed down on the Rocks which at one moment soared into the air like peaks, and at the next, sticking fast at the bottom of the sea, were submerged by the raging waters. But the Nereides, passing the ship from hand to hand and side to side, kept her scudding through the air on top of the waves. It was like that game that young girls play beside a sandy beach, when they roll their skirts up to their waists on either side and toss a ball round to one another, throwing it high in the air so that it never touches the ground. Thus, though the water swirled and seethed around them, these sea-nymphs kept Argo from the Rocks . . . The Nereides worked hard to heave Argo clear of the resounding rocks and it took then as long a time as daylight lingers in an evening of spring."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 188 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[The Argonauts make preparations for the launch of the ship Argo :] Next in joy they pile altars; chiefly unto thee, lord of the waters [Poseidon], is reverence paid, unto thee, unto Zephyros (the West Wind) and unto Glaucus upon the shore Ancaeus sacrifices an ox decked with dark blue fillets, unto Thetis a heifer."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 655 ff :
"The vessel [the Argo] stands high out of calm waters, and Thetis and her kinsman Nereus with his strong arms support it from the bottom of the sea."
THETIS & THE WOLF OF PSAMATHE
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 397 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Peleus' flocks were ravaged by a giant wolf sent by the Nereis Psamathe.] Peleus : ‘. . . To the Sea-goddess (Numen Pelagi) now I needs must pray!’ . . . Peleus addressed his prayers to Psamathe, the wave-blue Nympha, that she would end her wrath and bring her succour. Her no prayer of his could turn, but Thetis for her husband's sake pleaded and won her pardon."
THE CONTEST OF THETIS & MEDEIA
Thetis and Medeia competed in a beauty contest when they were living with their husbands Peleus and Jason in Iolkos (Iolcus).
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 5 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Hephaestion] reports that Athenodoros of Eretria, in the eighth book of his Commentaries, says that Thetis and Medea had a dispute in Thessalia (Thessaly) as to which was the most beautiful; their judge was Idomeneus [king of Krete (Crete)], who gave the victory to Thetis; Medea in anger said that the Kretans were always liars and in revenge she made the curse that he would never speak the truth, just as he had lied in his judgement; it is from that, he says, that Kretans pass as liars. Athenodoros cites as author of this story Antiokhos (Antiochus) in his second book of Legends of the town."
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Epic Cycle, The Cypria Fragments - Greek Epic C7th - 6th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Alcaeus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric V Melanippides, Fragments - Greek Lyric B.C.
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Plato, Republic - Greek Philosophy C4th 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.
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History - Greek Mythography C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Colluthus, The Rape of Helen - Greek Epic C5th - 6th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Achilleid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.