A Naiad by John William Waterhouse, 1893; a water nymph approaches the sleeping Hylas.

In Greek mythology, the Naiads or Naiades (Ναϊάδες from the Greek νάειν, "to flow," and νᾶμα, "running water") were a type of nymph who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks.

They are distinct from river gods, who embodied rivers, and the very ancient spirits that inhabited the still waters of marshes, ponds and lagoon-lakes, such as pre-Mycenaean Lerna in the Argolid.

Naiads were associated with fresh water, as the Oceanids were with saltwater and the Nereids specifically with the Mediterranean, but because the Greeks thought of the world's waters as all one system, which percolated in from the sea in deep cavernous spaces within the earth, there was some overlap. Arethusa, the nymph of a spring, could make her way through subterranean flows from the Peloponnesus, to surface on the island of Sicily.



Greek deities
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Aquatic deities

The essence of a naiad was bound to her spring, so if a naiad's body of water dried, she would die.

They were often the object of archaic local cults, worshipped as essential to humans. Boys and girls at coming-of-age ceremonies dedicated their childish locks to the local naiad of the spring. In places like Lerna their waters' ritual cleansings were credited with magical medical properties. Animals were ritually drowned there. Oracles might be situated by ancient springs.

Naiads could be dangerous: Hylas of the Argo's crew was lost when he was taken by naiads fascinated by his beauty (see illustration). The naiads were also known to exhibit jealous tendencies. Theocritus's story of naiad jealousy was that of a shepherd, Daphnis, who was the lover of Nomia; Daphnis had on several occasions been unfaithful to Nomia and as revenge she permanently blinded him. Salmacis forced the youth Hermaphroditus into a carnal embrace and, when he sought to get away, fused with him.

The Naiads were either daughters of Poseidon or various Oceanids, but a genealogy for such ancient, ageless creatures is easily overstated. The water nymph associated with particular springs was known all through Europe in places with no direct connection with Greece, surviving in the Celtic wells of northwest Europe that have been rededicated to Saints, and in the medieval Melusine.

Walter Burkert points out, "When in the Iliad [xx.4–9] Zeus calls the gods into assembly on Mount Olympus, it is not only the well-known Olympians who come along, but also all the nymphs and all the rivers; Okeanos alone remains at his station,",[1] Greek hearers recognized this impossibility as the poet's hyperbole, which proclaimed the universal power of Zeus over the ancient natural world: "the worship of these deities," Burkert confirms, "is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality."[1]


Robert Graves offered a sociopolitical reading of the common myth-type in which a mythic king is credited with marrying a naiad and founding a city: it was the newly arrived Hellenes justifying their presence. The loves and rapes of Zeus, according to Graves' readings, record the supplanting of ancient local cults by Olympian ones (Graves 1955, passim).

Fountain of the Naiads, Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy

So, in the back-story of the myth of Aristaeus, Hypseus, a king of the Lapiths, married Chlidanope, a naiad, who bore him Cyrene. Aristaeus had more than ordinary mortal experience with the naiads: when his bees died in Thessaly, he went to consult them. His aunt Arethusa invited him below the water's surface, where he was washed with water from a perpetual spring and given advice.

Types of Naiads

Individual Naiads

See also


  1. ^ a b Burkert, III, 3.3, p. 174.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Naiad — Na iad (n[=a] y[a^]d; 277), n. [L. naias, adis, na[ i]s, idis, a water nymph, Gr nai:a s, nai: s, fr. na ein to flow: cf. F. na[ i]ade. Cf. {Naid}.] 1. (Myth.) A water nymph; one of the lower female divinities, fabled to preside over some body of …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Naiad — Naiad,   ein Mond des Planeten Neptun …   Universal-Lexikon

  • naiad — (n.) water nymph, c.1600, from L. Nais, Naias (gen. naiadis), from Gk. Naias (pl. Naiades) river nymph, from naiein to flow, from PIE *naw yo , suffixed form of root * (s)nau to swim, flow, let flow (see NUTRIMENT (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • naiad — ► NOUN (pl. naiads or naiades) ▪ (in classical mythology) a water nymph. ORIGIN Greek Naias, from naein to flow …   English terms dictionary

  • naiad — [nā′ad΄, nī′ad΄; nā′əd, nīəd] n. pl. naiads or naiades [nā′ə dēz΄] [Fr naïade < L Naias (gen. Naiadis) < Gr Naias (pl. Naïades) < naein, to flow < IE base * (s)na , to flow > L natare, to swim] 1. [also N ] Gr. & Rom. Myth. any of… …   English World dictionary

  • Naiad — III Naiad Naiad auf einer Aufnahme der Raumsonde Voyager 2 Zentralkörper Neptun Eigenschaften des Orbits …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • naiad — nymph ymph (n[i^]mf), n. [L. nympha nymph, bride, young woman, Gr. ny mfh: cf. F. nymphe. Cf. {Nuptial}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Class. Myth.) A goddess of the mountains, forests, meadows, or waters. [1913 Webster] Where were ye, nymphs, when the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • naiad — noun (plural naiads or naiades) Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French naïade, from Latin naiad , naias, from Greek, from nan to flow more at nourish Date: 14th century 1. any of the nymphs in classical mythology… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • naiad — /nay ad, euhd, nuy /, n., pl. naiads, naiades / euh deez /. 1. (sometimes cap.) Class. Myth. any of a class of nymphs presiding over rivers and springs. 2. the juvenile form of the dragonfly, damselfly, or mayfly. 3. a female swimmer, esp. an… …   Universalium

  • naiad — [ nʌɪad] noun (plural naiads or naiades nʌɪəˌdi:z) 1》 (in classical mythology) a nymph inhabiting a river, spring, or waterfall. 2》 the aquatic larva of a dragonfly, mayfly, or stonefly. 3》 an aquatic plant with narrow leaves and minute flowers.… …   English new terms dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”