They were female daemons of the natural world; minor goddesses of the forests, rivers, springs, meadows, mountains and seas. They were the crafters of nature’s wild beauty, from the growing of trees, flowers and shrubs, to the nurture of wild animals and birds, and the formation of grottoes, springs, brooks and wetlands.

Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15.jpg
Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896, by John William Waterhouse.

Nymphs were also companions of the gods. Dionysus had his wild-eyed Maenads and Bacchae, Artemis was accompanied by a band of huntress nymphs, Hecate by the dark Lampades of the underworld, Poseidon by the Nereids, and the goddesses of Olympus by a bevy of nymph handmaidens.

Others were the nurses of the gods including the Idaian nymphs who nursed the infant Zeus, and the Nysian nymphs who cared for Dionysus.

The nymphs were depicted as beautiful young women with attributes matching their abode.

Echo and Narcissus, 1903, by John William Waterhouse.







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