1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nereus

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NEREUS, in Greek mythology, the eldest son of Pontus and Gaea, and father of the fifty Nereïds. He is a beneficent and venerable old man of the sea, full of wisdom and skilled in prophecy, but, like Proteus, he will only reveal what he knows under compulsion. Thus Heracles seized him when asleep, and, although he attempted to escape by assuming various forms, compelled him to reveal the whereabouts of the apples of the Hesperides (Apollodorus ii. 5). His favourite dwelling-place is a cavern in the depths of the Aegean. The fifty daughters of Nereus, the Nereïds, are personifications of the smiling, quiet sea. Of these, Thetis and Amphitrite rule the sea according to the legend of different localities; Galatea is a Sicilian figure, who plays with and deludes her rustic lover of the shore, Polyphemus. Nereus is represented with the sceptre and trident; the Nereïds are depicted as graceful maidens, lightly clad or naked, riding on tritons and dolphins. The name has nothing to do with the modern Greek νερό (really νεαρόν, “fresh” [water]): it is probably a short form of Νήριτος.