THE NYMPHAI (or Nymphs) were female spirits of the natural world, minor goddesses of the forests, rivers, springs, meadows, mountains and seas. They were responsible for the crafting of nature’s wild beauty, from the arrangement and growth of the plants, flowers and trees, to the nurture of wild birds and animals, and the formation of rocky caverns, springs, wetlands and brooks.
Nymphs were also companions of the gods. Dionysos had his wild-eyed Mainades and Bakkhai, Artemis was accompanied by a band of huntress nymphs, Hekate by the dark Lampades nymphs of the underworld. Poseidon’s court was attended by Nereides and sea nymphs, and the Olympian court by nymph handmaidens.
Other nymphs were nurses of the gods, including the Idaian nymphs that nursed the god Zeus, and the Nysian nymphs who cared for Dionysos.