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N entries
naiads (NYE-adz or NAY-adz). Nymphs of springs, ponds and rivers. Like other nymphs, naiads were young and beautiful female sprites. They were divine but not immortal.
Narcissus (nar-SISS-us). Handsome youth who was caused to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool for breaking the heart of a suitor. The nymph Echo fell in love with him but could not adequately express her passion because she had been condemned only to repeat the words of others. Her adoration unrequited, she wasted away until only her voice remained. Narcissus also languished beside the pool, dying either from starvation or excessive self-love.
Naxos (NAK-sos). Island in the Aegean Sea. Here Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she helped him escape from the Labyrinth. Some say that he left her ashore by accident when the tide carried him away, but others say he had fallen love with her sister Phaedra. Ariadne pined for him but was eventually consoled by the god Dionysus, who married her.
nectar (NEK-tur). Beverage of the gods, which conferred immortality on any mortal lucky enough to partake of it. In this regard, nectar was like ambrosia, the divine food. The theft of either was a serious offense. Tantalus was condemned to an eternity of hunger and thirst, with water and fruit always just out of reach, for a crime which may well have involved stealing ambrosia from the gods.
Nemean Lion (NEE-mee-un or nee-MEE-un). Preternatural beast with an impenetrable pelt, nevertheless vanquished and carried to Mycenae by Heracles as one of his Labors. These Labors were assigned Heracles by his cousin Eurystheus, who hid in a storage jar when he saw the great hero coming with the lion on his shoulder.
Neptune (NEP-toon). Roman name of Poseidon (puh-SYE-dun or poh-SYE-dun), the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. Although he was officially one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus, Poseidon spent most of his time in his watery domain. He was brother to Zeus and Hades. These three gods divided up creation. Zeus became ruler of the sky, Hades got dominion of the Underworld and Poseidon was given all water, both fresh and salt.
Although there were various rivers personified as gods, these would have been technically under Poseidon's sway. Similarly, Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, wasn't really considered on a par with Poseidon, who was known to drive his chariot through the waves in unquestioned dominance. Poseidon had married Nereus's daughter, the sea-nymph Amphitrite.
In dividing heaven, the watery realm and the subterranean land of the dead, the Olympians agreed that the earth itself would be ruled jointly, with Zeus as king. This led to a number of territorial disputes among the gods. Poseidon vied with Athena to be patron deity of Athens. The god demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge. Athena, however, planted an olive tree, which was seen as a more useful favor. Her paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon, which still crowns the Acropolis. The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honor Poseidon as well.
Poseidon was father of the hero Theseus, although the mortal Aegeus also claimed this distinction. Theseus was happy to have two fathers, enjoying the lineage of each when it suited him. Thus he became king of Athens by virtue of being Aegeus's son, but availed himself of Poseidon's parentage in facing a challenge handed him by King Minos of Crete. This monarch threw his signet ring into the depths of the sea and dared Theseus to retrieve it. The hero dove beneath the waves and not only found the ring but was given a crown by Poseidon's wife, Amphitrite.
Poseidon was not so well-disposed toward another famous hero. Because Odysseus blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus, who was Poseidon's son, the god not only delayed the hero's homeward return from the Trojan War but caused him to face enormous perils.
Poseidon similarly cursed the wife of King Minos. Minos had proved his divine right to rule Crete by calling on Poseidon to send a bull from the sea, which the king promised to sacrifice. Poseidon sent the bull, but Minos liked it too much to sacrifice it. So Poseidon asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to make Minos's queen, Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. The result was the monstrous Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.
As god of horses, Poseidon often adopted the shape of a steed. It is not certain that he was in this form when he wooed Medusa. But when Perseus later killed the Gorgon, the winged horse Pegasus sprang from her severed neck.
Poseidon sometimes granted the shape-shifting power to others. And he ceded to the request of the maiden Caenis that she be transformed into the invulnerable, male warrior Caeneus.
Nereids (NEE-ree-ids). The fifty daughters of the sea-god Nereus, one of whom bestowed upon Theseus a crown. This was on the occasion when the hero, challenged by King Minos of Crete, dove beneath the waves to prove that he was truly a son of the sea-god Poseidon. Collectively, the Nereids saved Jason and the Argonauts from the Wandering Rocks. They guided the Argo safely between the crags before they could crash together and trap the ship in between.
Nereus (NEE-ree-us or NEE-ryoos). Sea-god, known as the Old Man of the Sea. Nereus, who was thought of as being very old and correspondingly wise, was father of Thetis, Amphitrite and the other Nereids.
Nessus (NESS-us). Centaur killed by Heracles with arrows dipped in Hydra venom. The dying Nessus tricked the hero's wife into saving his blood for a love potion that killed Heracles when he donned a shirt dipped in it.
North Wind. Godly personification of the wind blowing from the north. The North Wind was father of two of the Argonauts, whose ability to fly enabled them to chase the Harpies away from the table of King Phineus. These bird-women had been ruining his meals, and Phineus was so grateful for their departure that he gave the Argonauts essential advice about surviving the Clashing Rocks.
nymphs (nimfs). Young and beautiful female spirits of trees, water and other aspects of nature. Nymphs were lesser deities in the sense that they were neither human nor immortal.
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N entries
naiads (NYE-adz or NAY-adz). Nymphs of springs, ponds and rivers. Like other nymphs, naiads were young and beautiful female sprites. They were divine but not immortal.
Narcissus (nar-SISS-us). Handsome youth who was caused to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool for breaking the heart of a suitor. The nymph Echo fell in love with him but could not adequately express her passion because she had been condemned only to repeat the words of others. Her adoration unrequited, she wasted away until only her voice remained. Narcissus also languished beside the pool, dying either from starvation or excessive self-love.
Naxos (NAK-sos). Island in the Aegean Sea. Here Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she helped him escape from the Labyrinth. Some say that he left her ashore by accident when the tide carried him away, but others say he had fallen love with her sister Phaedra. Ariadne pined for him but was eventually consoled by the god Dionysus, who married her.
nectar (NEK-tur). Beverage of the gods, which conferred immortality on any mortal lucky enough to partake of it. In this regard, nectar was like ambrosia, the divine food. The theft of either was a serious offense. Tantalus was condemned to an eternity of hunger and thirst, with water and fruit always just out of reach, for a crime which may well have involved stealing ambrosia from the gods.
Nemean Lion (NEE-mee-un or nee-MEE-un). Preternatural beast with an impenetrable pelt, nevertheless vanquished and carried to Mycenae by Heracles as one of his Labors. These Labors were assigned Heracles by his cousin Eurystheus, who hid in a storage jar when he saw the great hero coming with the lion on his shoulder.
Neptune (NEP-toon). Roman name of Poseidon (puh-SYE-dun or poh-SYE-dun), the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. Although he was officially one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus, Poseidon spent most of his time in his watery domain. He was brother to Zeus and Hades. These three gods divided up creation. Zeus became ruler of the sky, Hades got dominion of the Underworld and Poseidon was given all water, both fresh and salt.
Although there were various rivers personified as gods, these would have been technically under Poseidon's sway. Similarly, Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, wasn't really considered on a par with Poseidon, who was known to drive his chariot through the waves in unquestioned dominance. Poseidon had married Nereus's daughter, the sea-nymph Amphitrite.
In dividing heaven, the watery realm and the subterranean land of the dead, the Olympians agreed that the earth itself would be ruled jointly, with Zeus as king. This led to a number of territorial disputes among the gods. Poseidon vied with Athena to be patron deity of Athens. The god demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge. Athena, however, planted an olive tree, which was seen as a more useful favor. Her paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon, which still crowns the Acropolis. The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honor Poseidon as well.
Poseidon was father of the hero Theseus, although the mortal Aegeus also claimed this distinction. Theseus was happy to have two fathers, enjoying the lineage of each when it suited him. Thus he became king of Athens by virtue of being Aegeus's son, but availed himself of Poseidon's parentage in facing a challenge handed him by King Minos of Crete. This monarch threw his signet ring into the depths of the sea and dared Theseus to retrieve it. The hero dove beneath the waves and not only found the ring but was given a crown by Poseidon's wife, Amphitrite.
Poseidon was not so well-disposed toward another famous hero. Because Odysseus blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus, who was Poseidon's son, the god not only delayed the hero's homeward return from the Trojan War but caused him to face enormous perils.
Poseidon similarly cursed the wife of King Minos. Minos had proved his divine right to rule Crete by calling on Poseidon to send a bull from the sea, which the king promised to sacrifice. Poseidon sent the bull, but Minos liked it too much to sacrifice it. So Poseidon asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to make Minos's queen, Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. The result was the monstrous Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.
As god of horses, Poseidon often adopted the shape of a steed. It is not certain that he was in this form when he wooed Medusa. But when Perseus later killed the Gorgon, the winged horse Pegasus sprang from her severed neck.
Poseidon sometimes granted the shape-shifting power to others. And he ceded to the request of the maiden Caenis that she be transformed into the invulnerable, male warrior Caeneus.
Nereids (NEE-ree-ids). The fifty daughters of the sea-god Nereus, one of whom bestowed upon Theseus a crown. This was on the occasion when the hero, challenged by King Minos of Crete, dove beneath the waves to prove that he was truly a son of the sea-god Poseidon. Collectively, the Nereids saved Jason and the Argonauts from the Wandering Rocks. They guided the Argo safely between the crags before they could crash together and trap the ship in between.
Nereus (NEE-ree-us or NEE-ryoos). Sea-god, known as the Old Man of the Sea. Nereus, who was thought of as being very old and correspondingly wise, was father of Thetis, Amphitrite and the other Nereids.
Nessus (NESS-us). Centaur killed by Heracles with arrows dipped in Hydra venom. The dying Nessus tricked the hero's wife into saving his blood for a love potion that killed Heracles when he donned a shirt dipped in it.
North Wind. Godly personification of the wind blowing from the north. The North Wind was father of two of the Argonauts, whose ability to fly enabled them to chase the Harpies away from the table of King Phineus. These bird-women had been ruining his meals, and Phineus was so grateful for their departure that he gave the Argonauts essential advice about surviving the Clashing Rocks.
nymphs (nimfs). Young and beautiful female spirits of trees, water and other aspects of nature. Nymphs were lesser deities in the sense that they were neither human nor immortal.
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