Discover fascinating information about the beautiful, supernatural sea nymphs referred to as Mermaids who were believed by the ancient Greeks to inhabit the oceans and featured in the legends and mythology of Ancient Greece. Mermaids were minor goddesses of nature, specifically the sea and oceans. Mermaids of art and legend are often depicted as half women and half fish holding a mirror and a comb.
Definition of Mermaids
Who were the Mermaids of Ancient Greek mythology? The meaning and definition of Mermaids are as follows: Definition of Mermaids: The ancient Greek Mermaids were sea nymphs who were supernatural beings who lived beneath the sea but would occasionally come ashore. This mythical aquatic creature is depicted with the head and torso of a human female and a fish-like tail. The name mermaid is derived from the Middle English 'mere' meaning "sea" and 'maid' meaning "girl".
Mermaid and the baby by John Collier
Mermaids - Information about Mermaids
Mermaids were a type of water nymph, a supernatural being who lived beneath the sea but who would occasionally come ashore. Mermaids were believed to inhabit salt-water environments including lagoons, rather than freshwater lakes or streams. The mermaids were believed to be the 3000 daughters of Triton, the son of the Greek gods Poseidon and Amphitrite. The 3000 brothers of the mermaids were called the Tritons, or Mermen. Tritons were described as having green hair and eyes, their bodies were like those of men, but instead of legs they had tails like fishes. Mermaids were described as being elusive, young, very beautiful with long, flowing hair and sad deep eyes. They possessed fins and a spreading, forked tail.
Mermaids and the Oceanides
According to ancient Greek mythology the Titan gods Oceanus, the eldest son of Gaia and Uranus, married his sister Tethys and their union produced the Oceanides (three thousand daughters who were goddesses and water nymphs) and the Potamoi (three thousand sons who were river-gods). In ancient Greek mythology the mermaids were decscendents of Poseidon and the daughters of Triton. Mythology concerning the nymphs called the mermaids superseded the myths of the Oceanides, but their roles were the same. Refer to the Sea Gods family tree that follows.
The Lure of Mermaids
Mermaids are often represented as the upper half of a beautiful young maiden joined to the lower half of a fish, usually holding a comb in the right hand and a mirror in the left. The comb and the mirror reflect the myths that a mermaid was often found resting upon the waves, combing out her long hair, whilst admiring herself in their mirror. Aphrodite the goddess of love, sexuality, beauty and desire was strongly linked with all the sea nymphs. She was found and raised by sea nymphs, the most perfect of all females, the epitome of beauty but was vain, weak and unfaithful. The abundant, flowing hair and the beauty of the Mermaids combined with impossible love symbolized a link between passion, unrequited love and destruction. A powerful and often feared aspect of women is their ability to seduce men. In ancient Greek mythology, when a divine female seduced a mortal man, it usually culminated in his death and destruction.
Mermaids in Greek Mythology
Mermaids were accredited with wondrous vocal powers, to hear which was death to the listener. In some Greek myths they were believed to sing to sailors and enchant them, distracting them from their work and causing them to walk off the deck or run their ships aground. In other myths and legends they were depicted as benign creatures who would help men who were in trouble at sea. Mermaids were also accredited with the supernatural powers and ability to raise and calm storms at will.
Mermaids - The Mermaid's Tail
A mermaid's tail is depicted as large, broad and forked. (It is interesting to note that fish with forked tails are fast swimmers, although they may not swim fast all of the time, and the deeper the fork, the faster the fish can swim.) The Mermaids tail is depicted as forked and in many different shades and colors. According to ancient mythology every mermaid had a special precious stone which was hidden on the sea bed. Should a mermaid find her special stone her tail would take on the same color and she would acquire additional magical powers.