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SOME PHASES OF THE CULT OF THE NYMPHS
By Floyd G. Ballentine
IT seems to be generally believed to-day that the Greeks and Romans thought of the nymphs as connected especially with springs, rivers, mountains, trees, and meadows, but as possessing little power, and that they did not honor them in any fixed cult as deities who aided men in certain definite ways. Bloch alone, in Roscher, Lex. s. v. Nymphen, has shown to some extent that the nymphs presided over certain provinces, but he has said very little concerning their cult, and has scarcely attempted to show at what times the various forms of their worship existed.
Wissowa, in the preface of his Religion und Kultus der R-dmer, rightly insists on the necessity, in the treatment of Greek and Roman religion, of first getting the facts in the religion of each people, and, in doing so, of carefully distinguishing between the evidence which is Greek and that which is Roman, and of fixing the time during which the various cults or phases of the same cult existed. This I have attempted to do in this paper on the cult of the nymphs, in which I have endeavored to show that they were worshipped by both the Greeks and Romans as goddesses of water, of marriage, and of birth. To this I have added a list of the names of the nymphs.1
The Nymphs As Water-Deities Among The Greeks
There is (Some) evidence that the nymphs were regarded as rain-deities among the Greeks. The first fact which deserves notice in this connection is that the Hyades (a sisterhood of Nymphs which bring Rain) were from early times called nymphs. They are so called by Hesiod. In Dodona especially they seem to have been considered nymphs at least from the fifth century B.C., as we hear from Pherecydes quoted by Hyginus. Other passages In which they are called nymphs are Pseudo-Apollod. 3, 4, 3, 7; Schol. Hom. //. 18, 486; Mythogr. I, Fab. 120; Ovid, Met. 3, 314; Hyg. Fab. 182; Schol. Germ. Arat., p. 75. Further, since they are the daughters either of Oceanus, as we learn from Hyg. Fab. 182, or according to another tradition, of Aethra, or Pleione, the daughters of Oceanus (as is stated in Athen. rr, 490; Schol. Ap. Rh. 3, 226; Ovid, Fast. 5, 171; Hyg. Fab. 192, and still other places), they are Oceanides, who were very closely connected with the nymphs. Now it is well known that the Greeks believed that when the stars called Hyades rose or set, rain generally followed, but there is no further evidence that the Hyades were ever regarded as rain-deities. Yet since the stars were commonly associated in this way with rain, it at least seems probable that the Greeks at some time believed that the Hyades were nymphs who were connected with the giving of rain.
In the next place, concerning the nymphs as rain-deities, should be mentioned an Attic inscription which was found on a well-curb before the Dipylon gate at Athens, and which is given by F. Lenormont, in Daremberg et Saglio, Diet. Ant. s. v. Eleusinia, p. 573; cf. Monogr. de la Vote Sacree, p. 86:
The inscription belongs, roughly speaking, to the Roman period and seems to be an invocation to Pan, Men, and the nymphs asking for rain and fertility of the soil.
Another inscription found on a small terra cotta figure from Cyprus is published by Cesnola, Salaminia, p. 199. The figure is that of a nymph reclining on a rock from which water is flowing. On the base is cut an inscription which is at least a simpler and more natural interpretation than that which connects the inscription as a mystic formula with the celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries, cf. Daremberg et Saglio, Diet. Ant. s. v. Eleusinia, p. 573. The nymphs were believed to give fertility to the soil and to assist growth, cf. Bloch, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Nymphen, p. 515, and an invocation to these deities in a prayer for rain and fertility of the soil would be fitting and natural. The Orphic Hymn 51, 17-18, quoted on p. 81, in which the nymphs are prayed to for water that the soil may be made fertile, well supports this interpretation of the inscription.
* S is given in the inscription on the figure, p. 199, but 2 on p. 200.
The date of this terra cotta Cesnola puts in the first century of our era. If it be genuine we have, then, certain proof that some nymph was worshipped in Cyprus in this century as a rain-deity. Unfortunately, the terra cotta seems to be a forgery. Mr. Robinson, director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, tells me that the whole appearance of the figure is against its genuineness. Further, according to Pottier et Reinach, La Necropole de Myrina, I, p. 172, we do not have from ancient times any such terra cotta figures with inscriptions which describe the figure. Moreover, in no other place do we find the epithet opfipios applied to any one except Jupiter.1 This inscription, therefore, cannot be used as certain evidence that the nymphs were ever rain-deities.
That it was the custom, however, in at least one Greek state to pray to a certain nymph for rain, we learn from Paus. 8, 38, 4, who says that the nymph Hagno according to this account, and not Jupiter, was certainly called upon. This nymph, it may be added, holds an iSpia in the picture cut on a table which Paus. 8, 31, 4 describes. As to the time at which this custom existed and the extent to which it was practised, Morgan, /. c. p. 95, rightly says: We have no evidence that this rite was practised in Arcadia in classical times or that anything like it was ei,er practised by other than Arcadian Greeks.
This is all the evidence which I can find concerning the nymphs as rain-deities. One fact only seems to be certain, that Hagno was so worshipped in Arcadia at least in the second century of our era. If the Attic inscription has been rightly interpreted as an invocation to the nymphs in connection with a prayer for rain it points to a belief among the Athenians that the nymphs were goddesses of rain. If the inscription from Cyprus be genuine, which is doubtful, it shows that a similar worship of some nymph existed in that island. Since, however, the Greeks believed that the nymphs furnished water in other ways, and the Romans believed that they presided in general over the granting of water, as will be shown further on in this paper, it certainly seems probable, if we take into consideration what has been noted in regard to the Hyades, that the nymphs were at some time believed by the Greeks to be also rain-deities.
It was from springs, however, more than from any other source that the Greeks secured their water. It is, therefore, not at all strange that they believed that the nymphs of these springs provided their water, and that they honored them especially in this way as water-deities. The first one to conjecture that this was the case was Morgan, /. c. p. 108: // appears to me very probable that in times of drought both Greeks and Romans were in the habit of praying to the divinities of the wellsprings, fountains, and sources of streams, and of the streams themselves, rather than to Zeus or Jupiter or any other god, for rain,— that is, that they offered vows and prayers to the Nymphae or Lymphae and similar divinities.
Already in the time of Homer it seems probable that the nymphs of springs were believed to provide water for them, and that vows and prayers were made to them to do so.
To them also Odysseus sacrificed many oxen, and made many other offerings.
It is practically certain that gifts have been presented to the nymphs of the spring because of the water which they have provided. The fact that the gifts are cups, increases the probability that in the passages from Homer already quoted the cups were given to the nymphs of the spring out of gratitude for the water they have bestowed.
In other passages found in Anth. Pal. 9, 327 / 9>328; 16,264, we learn that they were presented with the same gifts, presumably because they provided the water of these springs.
In still another epigram, written early in the third century B.c. by Anyte of Tegea, it is clear that a gift has been made to the nymphs because they have given water to some one;
Here, without much doubt, the water of some spring is meant. From this evidence of Leonidas and Anyte it seems safe to conclude that at the beginning of the third century B. C. the nymphs were asked to give water through springs.
In the latter part of this century we find evidence pointing- to the same cult in Ap. Rh. 4, 1411-1421, where the thirsty Orpheus implores the nymphs to show him a spring:
In Porphyrius, who lived near the middle of the third century of our era, we find a Hymn to Apollo, which is perhaps of ancient date, in which the nymphs are said to send forth springs from the earth, and Porphyrius himself states that the nymphs preside over springs,
Then in Hesychius, who lived about the fourth century of our era, we find (a) passage, (which) if we may explain it in the light of the other passages which concern the nymphs as water-deities, probably shows that the nymphs were believed to have provided Samos with many springs. Whether Anacreon himself, however, so styled the city for this reason, we do not know.
Finally, several passages may be mentioned concerning this phase of the cult of the nymphs which are of uncertain date. First to be noted is the information concerning the nymph Langia which Lactantius gives us in his comment on Stat. Theb. 4, 717: Langia fons est, qui postea vocatus est Archemorus. Et huic consecratus est fons et Nympha cuius famam postea Argivi accepto beneficio extulcrunt, quia non perdiderat aquam. Iuxta huric fontem agon celebratur in honorcm Archemori consecratus et in Nymphae beneficium. According to the story of Statius, Theb. 4, 683 ff., when the Argives were making their expedition against Thebes, Bacchus besought the nymphs to dry up every source of water in the land, springs, rivers, and pools, that the whole army might perish from thirst. Every source of water was then dried up by the nymphs except one spring the water of which Langia, the nymph of the spring, preserved, and from this spring the Argives secured water through the kind assistance of Hypsipyle.
Lactantius shows in the passage just quoted, if he may be believed, that there was a tradition among the Greeks that the Nemean games had been established partly in honor of the nymph Langia because of her kindness in preserving the water of her spring. This same tradition is given by Statius, as we see from Theb. 4, 720-722:
Manet ingens gloria Nympham
Cum tristem Hypsipylen ducibus sudatus Achaeis
Ludus et atra sacrum recolit trieteris Ophelten.
These, however, are the only passages where this kind deed of the nymph Langia and her relation to the Nemean games are mentioned. Since Statius and Lactantius relate the story, it seems very probable that it was known among the Greeks also, especially since, as the testimony of Nicander has shown, there was a tradition in his century that this nymph had once shown Perseus the water of her spring. At what time, however, this tradition about Langia was current among the Greeks we do not know. The possibility that it went back to an early time is increased by the fact that Aeschylus informs us that the Nemean games were established in honor of Archemorus (cf. Nauck, Tr. Gr. Fr. p. 49). This tradition, if it did exist among the Greeks, shows clearly that the nymphs were believed to preserve and care for the water of springs. Moreover, if the account given by Statius of the prayer of Bacchus is really a version of a Greek tradition, it points with equal clearness to a belief among the Greeks that the nymphs, since they provided the water of springs, rivers, and pools, could also take it away.
In an epigram of uncertain date and authorship gifts are made to the nymphs because of the discovery of a spring, and they are asked to bestow upon some house an abundance of water, Anth. Pal. 9, 327:
Nv/i<pai ^vSpiaSts, Tals 'Ep/ioKptW ra&t Supa
i'<Tu.ro, KaXXivdov irifiaKOS diriTv^uy, \atptrt, (cai <TTtif}oiT tparois iro<Tiv vSarotvra TovSt Sofmov, KaSapov iri/iirAd/itvou ird/iaros. Again, since the nymphs pour forth a stream which probably arises from some spring, offerings are made to them, Anth. Pal. 9, 328:
A tablet is consecrated to the nymphs, without doubt, as a thankoffering for some ever-flowing spring, Anth. Pal. App. 1, 217:
Finally, according to another writer, springs are filled by the nymphs, Anth. Pal. App. 1, 313:
the author and time of which are uncertain, and again Paus. 1, 40, 1, where the water which flows into an aqueduct from a spring, probably one belonging to the nymphs Sithnides, is said to belong to these
This is all the evidence I have been able to gather concerning the cult of the nymphs as deities of springs. It is clear, I think, that at least from the beginning of the third century B. C. down to the third or fourth centuries of our era they were believed to give water through springs, and prayers and thank-offerings were made to them in this connection. From the Homeric passages it seems almost certain that the same cult existed at that time. If an early date may be ascribed to the passage from the Orphic Hymn we have still further evidence for the early existence of this cult. From the fifth century we have only the evidence of the uncertain Platonic epigrams, yet in the light of all the facts concerning the nymphs as water-deities, it seems safe to conclude that they were worshipped as deities of springs also in the fifth and fourth centuries.
There is no evidence that the nymphs were called upon to provide water through rivers, yet one passage might be noticed in this connection from a late writer,
The river Glaucus is situated in Lycia.
According to the evidence of two inscriptions the nymphs were associated with aqueducts, C. I. G. 1081 (from Fourmont): an inscription of the fourth century B. C. found in Megara, which refers to an aqueduct;
That the nymphs were believed to provide water is further shown by an inscription from Rhodes, In. Gr. Ins. Mar. Acg., I, 928: an inscription of the third century of our era, the meaning of which seems to be that the nymphs have made the land fertile by means of irrigating ditches.
The nymphs were often associated with bathing establishments and some evidence is found tending to show that they were believed not only to care for them but to be closely connected with providing water for them.
Finally, there are several passages which point to the belief that the nymphs presided in general over the granting of water. The first passage is of uncertain date, Orphic Hymns, Fr. 160, 1-3:
Here, as will be shown later to hold true for the Romans, the nymphs are associated with water in precisely the same way in which Hephaestus is associated with fire and Demeter with grain.
Again, near the middle of the third century, they are said by Porphyrius to preside over water,
where again the nymphs are connected with water just as Hephaestus with fire. So, finally,
This completes the evidence which I have been able to find concerning the cult of the nymphs as water-deities among the Greeks. There is no direct evidence that they were, during the fifth and fourth centuries, prayed to for rain, but, as has already been stated, it seems very probable that during this and possibly an earlier period they were regarded as rain-deities. It is evident, however, that from the time of Homer, possibly, down to the third or fourth centuries of our era the nymphs were believed to provide the water of springs and were worshipped accordingly. Some evidence has also been found pointing to the belief that they were connected with the water of aqueducts, irrigation ditches, and baths, and presided in general over water. Yet it was as the givers of the water of springs that they were especially worshipped. They were asked to provide water in this way, and offerings were made to them from gratitude for the water which they had bestowed.
The Nymphs As Water-deities Among The Romans
That the Lymphae and Nymphae were water-deities among the Romans has been recognized by several scholars, for example, Bloch, in Rosch. Lex. s. v. Nymphen, p. 540: So sind den R-dmern die Nymphen ausschliesslich Wassergottheiten gewesen," and Wissowa, ibid. s. v. Lymphae: "Italischer Name von Wassergottheiten, nachher mit den griechischen Nii/i^u identificiert. Few, however, seem to have perceived and no one heretofore, so far as I know, has shown that the Romans from a time before the classical period down to at least the third century of our era actually honored the Lymphae or Nymphae as goddesses who gave water to men through rain or springs or rivers. How little this has been understood is well shown in the recent characterization of the nymphs by Wissowa in his Rel. u. Kult. d. Rom., p. 182: Die Verehrung gilt oft auch den 'fontes' in der Mehrzahl oder den 'Lymphae,' die als Gottheiten der befruch-tenden und heilenden Kraft des Wassers verehrt wurden, undspdter den griechischen Nymphen Platz machten. The existence of any general cult of the nymphs as waterdeities was first conjectured by Morgan in the words which I have already quoted (p. 80).
The earliest evidence that the Romans prayed to the Lymphae for water is found in Varro, R. R. 1, 1,6, where, at the beginning of his work, in invoking various deities, he says: Nec non etiam precor Lympham et Bonum Eventum quoniam sine aqua omnis arida ac misera agri cultura, sine successu ac bono eventu frustratio est, non cultura. Lympha, in this passage, seems certainly to be a goddess who bestows water for agriculture, and, since in aqua the reference would most naturally be to rain, we have here pretty sure evidence that at least as early as the first half of the first century B. C. Lympha or the Lymphae were prayed to for rain. Still better proof that the Lymphae were regarded as rain-deities we obtain also from Varro, through St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei, 4, 22, who says here that we ought to know what each god furnishes: Ex eo enim poterimus, inquit ( Varro), scire quem cuiusque causa deum invocare atque advocare debeamus, ne faciamus, ut mimi solent, et optemus a Libero aquam, a Lymphis vinum. So also, ibid. 6, r, and 4, 34, he clearly shows that Varro and those of his time held that just as Liber should be asked for wine, Ceres for bread, and Vulcan for fire, so the Lymphae should be asked for water. Vitruvius also, it should be noted, informs us that in the first century temples were built for the worship of the Lymphae, De Arch, 1, 2, 5: Vcneri Florae Proserpinae Fonti Lumphis Corinthio genere constitutae (aedes) aptas videbuntur habere proprietates. It is evident, therefore, that already near the beginning of the first century b.C. Lympha and the Lymphae were honored by the Romans as water-deities.
The cult of the nymph Iuturna (older Diuturna; cf. C. I. L. 6, 3700) clearly shows that as early as the middle of the third century B. C. the nymphs were believed to provide water, and were worshipped especially as water-deities. The date of the public establishment of the cult of Iuturna we get with some certainty from Servius on Verg. Aen. 12,139: Iuturna fons est in Italia. . . . Huic fonti propter aquarum inopiam sacrificari solet; cui Lutatius Catulus primum templum in Campo Martio fecit; nam et lutumas ferias celebrant qui artificium aqua exercent, quem diem festum Iuturnalia dicunt. Aust, De aed. sacr. pop. Rom., p. 17, rightly, I think, maintains that this temple of Iuturna1 was vowed by Catulus in the naval battle at the Aegatian Islands in 24 r B. c.
What, then, was the nature of this cult? That the temple was built in honor of Iuturna as a water-goddess is evident, I think, from the fact, as Aust rightly observes, that it was probably built in fulfilment of a vow made in a naval battle. Servius, moreover, /. c., informs us that one part of her cult was a festival2 celebrated in her honor as a water-goddess by those who used water in their business.
Ovid, Fast. 1, 463 ff., shows that this festival existed in his time and was celebrated on the eleventh of January. From this reference to the festival by Ovid, and from Servius' use of nam, it is almost certain that when the latter speaks of this festival he does not refer to his own but to an ancient time, probably that of the building of the temple by Catulus. The Iuturnalia, therefore, was celebrated probably from about the middle of the third century B. C. especially by those qui artificium aqua exercent,— that is, Iuturna was honored in this festival as the goddess to whom men were indebted for the water which they used in their business.
The correctness of this interpretation is made the more certain by Servius' preceding remark: Huic fontipropter aquarum inopiam sasrificari solet. Servius here again, no doubt, refers to that time when Catulus built the temple of Iuturna, or possibly to a still earlier time,1 and shows that in times of drought sacrifice was made to Iuturna, the nymph of the spring, for water. That the nymph is here a rain-goddess can scarcely be doubted.
Still further evidence that Iuturna was honored as a water-deity is found in her connection with the Vulcanalia, a festival which was celebrated to avert the danger of fire and to secure aid in case of fire, as we learn from C. I. L. 6, 826, and Vitruvius 1, 7, i.2 In the Fasti of the Arval Brothers for the twenty-third of August, the day of the Vulcanalia, we find concerning this festival an inscription, C. I. L. 6, 2295, the date of which falls between 11 B. C. and 16 A. D., and which has been restored by Mommsen as follows:
[Volcanalia Feriae] Volcano [Volcanus in Circo Flam(inio). Iuturnae et Nymp]his in Campo. Opi Opifer[i]. Quir[ino],
In this restoration Mommsen, I believe, is right in connecting the expression \_Nymp-\his in Campo with the temple of Iuturna built by Catulus in the Campus Martius.* This temple of the nymphs is mentioned by Cic. Har. Resp. 57; Par. 4, 31; Cacl. 78; N. D. 3, 43.
What, now, was the way in which Iuturna and the nymphs were connected with this festival? Cicero informs us that they gave help in time of fire, Har. Resp. 57: Sed etiam inaudita sacra inexpiabih teelere pervertit idemque earum templum inflammavit dearum q ii arum ope etiam aliis incendiis subvenitur. Since, therefore, it was the custom to sacrifice to Iuturna propter aquarum inopiam, and since those celebrated the Iuturnalia qui artificium aqua exercent, Iuturna and the nymphs were honored in this festival without doubt as the deities who gave the water1 to be used in extinguishing fires.2
At how early a time Iuturna and the nymphs were connected with this festival is not known. It was at least before 56 b.C., the date of the De Haruspicum Responso, and probably at a very early period, since the Vulcanalia was an ancient8 festival and the temple of Iuturna dates back to nearly the middle of the third century B. C.
With Iuturna as a goddess of water two inscriptions lately discovered at Rome are perhaps to be associated. They may be found in the Notizie degli Scavi for 1900, p. 292:
The first of these inscriptions was found on a well near a spring, shrine, and altar which were connected with the worship of the nymph, the second on a shrine. The name of M. Barbatus Pollio fixes the date in the time of Julius Caesar.9
Again, Iuturna is said to preside over ponds and rivers in Verg. Aen. 12, 139-140.
Finally, as to the cult of this nymph, it is perhaps significant that according to Arnobius 3, 29, she was the mother of Fons, on the day of whose festival wells were crowned with chaplets to secure abundant water.i
This evidence proves, I think, that Iuturna and the nymphs were worshipped by the Romans as water-deities from about the middle of the third century b.C. to at least the end of the first century b.C.
The restoration1 of her temple in 2 B. C. marks the revival of the cult in the age of Augustus.
Passing now from Iuturna, we have next to cite concerning the nymphs as water-deities Hor. Serm. 1, 5, 97-98:
dein Gnatia Lymphis Iratis exstructa dedit risusque iocosque,
explained as follows by Porphyrio: Per haec quoque oppidulum significat penuria aquae labore. By the words Lymphis iratis the poet seems to mean, as Porphyrio says, that the town was suffering from the want2 of water, — that is, most probably, of springs, because of the wrath of the Lymphae. If this is the real meaning of the passage, we have here further proof that Romans of the time of Horace believed that the Lymphae provided water. If it be purely a poetic creation, it is still evidence of an earlier belief and one probably common in his own day. The explanation of Porphyrio, at any rate, points to a belief in his time, perhaps the fourth century of our era, that the Lymphae or Nymphae provided water.
We next find in Ovid, Fast. 3, 273-275, that the nymph Egeria furnishes the water of a certain river:
Defluit incerto lapidosus murmure rivus:
Saepe, sed exiguis haustibus inde bibi.
Egeria est quae praebet aquas, dea grata Camenis.
The passage in Statius, Theb. 4, 683 ff., to which reference has already been made, p. 85, deserves to be recalled here since, if Statius and Lactantius are not using a Greek tradition in the story of the prayer of Bacchus and the kindness of Langia, this whole account is evidence, not of a Greek, but of a Roman belief in the power of the nymphs to bestow water. It seems probable, however, that the account was drawn from a Greek source.
Several inscriptions of a later time show that it was customary when new springs were discovered to make offerings to the Nymphae or Nymphae Novae; cf. C. I. L. 10, 4734, an inscription from Sinuessa . of the first century of our era:
1 Cf. Aust, op. eit., p. 45.
1 Compare Aelian, Fr. 152, a passage I have cited on p. 85.
Nymphis sanct. Novis repertis | in villam Surdinianam Amempti j Caes. et Orciviae Phoebeo et Rhodini lib. I Deduct, ad eam villam . . .
Compare also C. I. L. 3, 3116, an inscription from Dalmatia of the second century of our era:
Nymphis Aug. sacrum. Graecius Leo aquam quam nullus antiquorum in civitate fuisse meminerit iuventam impendio . . .
There can be little doubt that these shrines were dedicated and offerings made to the nymphs not merely because they dwelled in or near the springs, but because they provided them with water. This is made more certain by another inscription, C. /.£.$, 3106, of uncertain date and found in Cis-Alpine Gaul:
Nymphis Lymphisq(ue) | Augustis ob reditum | Aquarum | P. Pomponius Cornelianus C • I • | ut vovit.
Pomponius has asked the Nymphae and Lymphae to bring back some supply of water, and the reference is in all probability to the water of a spring.
Next may be cited an inscription composed of five hexameters and dating probably from the first half of the third century of our era,1 from Lambaese, a city of Numidia, C. I. L. 8, 2662:
Numini Aquae Alexandrinae.
Hanc aram Nymphis exstruxi, nomine Laetus,
. . . quod fascibus annus
Is nostri datus est, quo sancto nomine dives
Lambaesem largo perfudit flumine Nympha.
Since no river is found near this city, nor any trace of an aqueduct to which this inscription may be referred, and since the words largo perfudit flumine cannot well refer to a spring, it seems practically certain that Laetus reared this altar to the nymphs for having caused a bountiful rain to fall upon the city.2 This inscription must, therefore, be added to the passage from Servius already quoted (p. 91), where we learn that it was the custom to sacrifice to Iuturna, the spring-nymph, for rain.
The nymphs seem also to have been associated with aqueducts and their water, as is evident from several inscriptions. The first is from Picenum, of the beginning of the first century of our era, C. I. L. 9, 5744 =
Nymphis Geminis | Sacrum | C. Fufius Gemini L. | Politicus J idem aquam perduxit.
A later inscription is from Casinum and was cut on a rock over which ran an aqueduct, C. I. L. 10, 5163:
Numphis Aeter ] nis Sacrum | Ti. CI. Praec. Ligar. | Magonianus per | Praecilium Zoticum | patrem aqua(m) induxit.
Another comes from the ruins of an aqueduct in Gaul, C. I. L. 12, 1093:
Numphis V • S • L • M. Another, also from Gaul and late, Orelli, 7148:
In H • D • D ' deabus Nimphis signa et aram C. Carantinius Maternus praefectus aque V ' S • L • M.
And finally an inscription from Rome, C. I. L. 6, 551:
Nymp. sanc. sac. Epictetus aquarius Aug. N.
To these should be added an inscription, C. I. G. 4616, concerning a certain Nymphaeum which was found near an aqueduct in Syria and which belongs to about the beginning of the second century of our era.
The comparison of all these inscriptions, which do not seem to have been generally understood,1 makes it clear, I think, that the nymphs, to whom belonged the sources of water, were believed to aid men in obtaining water through aqueducts as well as in other ways, and that vows and offerings were made to them in this connection.
Finally, as evidence that the nymphs were honored as water-deities, it is to be noted that Nympha is often explained by late writers and scholiasts as dea aquarum; cf. Corp. Glos.Lal. 4, 125, 1; 4, 262, 10; 5,467,63; 5,313.46; 4,124,55; 5, 314, 1; Isid. Ep. 8, 11, 96; and also Ovid, Am. 2, 14, 13-14.
In the light of all this evidence it is clear, I think, that the Lymphae were believed by the Romans to be water-deities and were honored as such from at least the beginning of the first century B.c.; that the
nymph Iuturna held an especially prominent place as a water-deity from about the middle of the third century B.C.; and that the nymphs both in general and individually, as Iuturna, Egeria, or the nymph of some spring, from at least the middle of the third century B.C. to about the middle of the third century of our era, were believed to bestow water in various ways, and in the Roman religion of the time held the place of water-deities.
The Nymphs As Deities Of Marriage And Birth Among The Greeks
I shall now take up a second phase of the cult of the nymphs and endeavor to show that the nymphs were believed by both the Greeks and Romans to preside over marriage and birth and were in this connection honored in an actual cult by both peoples.
It has been stated in a general way by several writers that the nymphs were associated by the Greeks with marriage and birth,1 but scarcely any evidence in support of the statement has been produced, and no one has attempted to show, so far as is possible from the evidence, the extent, the time, and the manner in which they were worshipped as deities of marriage and birth.
That their cult was closely connected with marriage is clearly shown by the comment of Mnaseas, an Alexandrine scholiast of the third
The nymphs are also, without doubt, called upon as deities of marriage by the women, in Ar. TTies. 973 b-981:
They were evidently honored in various ways by those about to marry. In Boeotia, for example, a part of the ceremony, which took place either one day or possibly several days2 before marriage, was, according to Plutarch, Am. Nar. 772, a sacrifice offered to the nymphs:
The story, moreover, of the marriage of Medea and Jason, which is given by Apollonius of Rhodes, adds to the probability that this custom was practised outside of Boeotia.' Medea, according to the account of Apollonius, 4, 1217-1219, and the scholiast on v. 1217, constructed two altars in a temple of Apollo, one to the Nymphs, the other to the Fates, and offered sacrifice to both on the occasion of her marriage:
The bride also prayed to the nymphs, according to Porph. De Ant. Nymph. 12:
This evidence points clearly to a custom of sacrificing to the nymphs at the time of marriage which must have existed long before the time of Apollonius of Rhodes, but how widely the custom was practised we do not know.
That the cult of the nymphs was connected with marriage is further shown by the fact that from an early time it was customary for bride and bridegroom, on the day on which they were to be married, to bathe in water brought from some neighboring spring.4 The bath was called the and the person who brought the water from the spring,
......Show that this custom existed before the middle of the second century B.c.
Further evidence that the bridegroom bathed and proof that this custom existed as early as the time of Aeschylus we obtain from Aesch. Prom. 566, Ar. Lysist. 378 and the scholia, also from Eur. Phoen. 347 ff.
It was also the custom for bride and bridegroom to sprinkle themselves with water, as we learn from the passage just quoted. That the bride also bathed is clear from
From the passage just quoted from Harpocration it would seem that the bridegroom and possibly the bride also each sent for the water (from a boy (for the groom) or a girl (for the bride) which was most closely related to them)
The recent excavations of the cave at Van on Mt. Hymettus have shown that here at least — and the custom must'have existed elsewhere in Greece — votive miniature lutrophori were offered to the nymphs from whose spring the water for the nuptial bath was taken.1 In this cave, where Pan, Apollo, the Graces, and especially the Nymphs were worshipped and in which was a spring, the fragments of some thirty such lutrophori were found, some of which belong to the fifth century. There can be no doubt that these miniatures of the vases in which water for the nuptial bath was carried were offerings to the nymphs, who presided not only over springs but also over marriage and birth, as will be shown later, since in this cave, which contained a spring to which the Xovrpotpopoi evidently came for water, the nymphs were especially worshipped.
* It is reasonable to suppose that these offerings were made when the water was taken from the spring.
Now, inasmuch as the nymphs, who presided over springs and rivers, were goddesses of birth, and since miniature lutrophori were offered, at least at Vari, to the nymphs of the spring from which the water for the nuptial bath was taken, it can scarcely be doubted that the special purpose of bathing at the time of marriage was to honor the nymphs
Now, that Hecaerge and Opis were nymphs is shown by Nonn. Dion. 5, 491; 48, 332. They are, moreover, called Nereids by Verg. Aen. 11, 588, and Serv. ad v. 532; Georg. 4, 343; Hyg. Fab. praef. Herodotus also says (4, 35) that Arge and Opis, Hyperoche and Laodice had come from the Hyperboreans under the same circumstances.
It seems very probable, moreover, that it was not only in Delos that brides offered before marriage some of their hair to the nymphs, but also in other parts of Greece, since at Athens and generally in Greece, and later among the Romans, brides made this offering to the various deities connected with marriage, Hera, Juno, Artemis, Diana, and Minerva. For this custom, cf. Schomann, Gr. Alt. II, 220; Hermann, Lehrb. d. Gr. Alt. III, 242; Iahn, on Pers. Sat. 2, 70 (p. 138); and especially Deschamps et Cousin, Bu1. d. Cor. Hell. XII, 479 ff. In this connection a passage ought also to be cited from
Since, as has already been shown, one part of the -rporiXtui. was a sacrifice offered to the nymphs, and since both bride and bridegroom were accustomed to honor the nymphs just before marriage by the act of bathing, it becomes very probable that the custom of offering some of the bride's hair to them was also a general one, especially since, as will be shown later, the Greeks commonly believed that the nymphs were birth-deities.
The last evidence I have to offer for this phase of the cult of the nymph is the fact that traces of this cult exist in Greece to-day. In many parts of Greece the Nereids are associated with marriage, and young girls make offerings to them that they may find husbands as soon as possible.
The nymphs were also believed by the Greeks to preside over birth. Two nymphs should first be mentioned who were evidently worshipped as birth-deities. Leucothea seems almost certainly to have been a goddess of birth, since the Romans, near the end of the republic, identified Leucothea and their own Mater Matuta who was a goddess of women and of birth.1 Still further evidence is found in Plut. Q. R. 16, where the temple of Leucothea in Chaeronea is compared with that of Mater Matuta at Rome because of a similarity in ceremony. Moreover, the goddess of the Pyrgi, a people dwelling in Etruria, who is called EiXadvia by Strabo 5, 226, is called AtvKoOta by Arist. Oecon. 1349 b; Polyaen. 5, 2, 21; Aelian, V. H. 1, 20.
That Leucothea was a nymph, or rather a Nereid, we learn from the following passages: Pind. P. 11, 2; Eur. Iph. T. 270; Schol. Pind. 01. 2, 51; Ety. M. 561, 45 (so Hesych. s. v.; Eudoc. 276); Hyg. Fab. praef. She is called a nymph by Ovid, Met. 4, 244.
The nymph Opis also, to whom we have already referred (p. 101), seems to have been honored as a goddess of birth, at least in Delos. Artemis, who was often called Opis,2 received this epithet possibly because of the belief that she gave aid at the time of birth; cf. Schol. Callim. Carm. in Art. 204: Oviris iirlQtrov 'ApTtp-iSos • ij wapa To oW£to-6Vu Tos TtKTovo-as airijv. From this epithet of Artemis arose in all probability the name of the nymph Opis.8 Therefore since, as has been shown, brides in Delos offered on the occasion of their marriage some of their hair to Opis, and since among the Romans she was honored as a goddess of birth (cf. p. 109), it is very probable that among the Greeks, in Delos at least, Opis was believed to preside over birth.
Further, the nymphs, who dwelt on Colias, a promontory in Attica, and who are mentioned by Aristaen. Ep. 1, 3, may well have been considered by the Greeks deities of birth, since KoAias, the goddess of this promontory, was certainly a goddess of marriage and birth (cf. Roscher, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Xolias)
Not only individual nymphs, however, were associated with birth among the Greeks, but the nymphs in general were honored in this way.
The expression irpb ptXXovroi Tokov clearly shows that the nymphs were believed to preside over birth, and that parents offered sacrifice to them in behalf of children just before birth.
Another sacrifice on the other hand, seems to have been a sacrifice made to the nymphs in return for their having safely brought up children to a certain age after birth. It was an expression of thanks for the care exercised by the nymphs over the child during the time since birth. The usage of the word rpotpaa elsewhere shows that the reference is to care that has been given, not to that which is to be given; cf. Aesch. Sept. 472; Isoc. Arch., p. 138; Plat. Rep. 520 B; [Lys.] Andoc. 49, etc.
Parents also sacrificed to the nymphs in behalf of young children. Concerning this fact we have the evidence of three writers in their accounts of the life of Plato. First, Aelian, Far. Hist. 10, 21, h
According to this account, therefore, the parents of Plato sacrificed to the nymphs on Mt. Hymettus1 for him when an infant. Since the story seems to have been a common one, it shows at least that the nymphs were believed to watch over young children and were worshipped in this connection.
In these two passages, however, it must be taken into consideration that a shepherd is praying for a young boy who was found in a cave of the nymphs and that the nymphs especially were worshipped by shepherds.
The recently excavated cave at Van on this mountain, in which Pan, Apollo, the Graces, and the Nymphs were worshipped, was possibly the scene of this sacrifice, if it ever occurred; cf. Am. Journ. Arch., VIII (1903), p. 287.
This evidence shows conclusively that from at least the fifth century the nymphs were actually worshipped as deities of marriage and birth and were believed to care for children. To them bride and bridegroom offered sacrifice before marriage; on the marriage day both honored the nymphs by the act of bathing that they might bless their union with children; in Delos, and probably in other parts of Greece as well, brides offered some of their hair to them before their marriage. Leucothea and probably, in Delos, Opis were considered birth-deities. Finally, the nymphs in general were believed to have the power of giving fruitfulness in marriage and of making less the pain of birth, and were so worshipped by the Greeks.
The Nymphs As Deities Of Marriage And Birth Among
Among the Romans also the nymphs were from an early time1 regarded as goddesses of birth. That their cult, however, was associated with marriage, while very probable, can be shown by no direct and certain evidence. In the only important passage which I am able to cite in this connection it is not entirely certain that the reference is to nymphs, — Paul. Diac. f.p. FesL, p. 63: Camelis virginibus supplicare nupturae solitae erant, concerning which, however, Preller, Rom. Myth. II, p. 214, is right, I think, in saying: Vermutlich eine Gruppe von Nymphen. As to their relation to marriage, another passage might also be noticed, — Dracont. Carm. Prof. 7, 31-35:
Et quatiunt dulces Museo pectine chordas,
Et vocis textura sonet nervique loquaces,
Bybliadas Satyris iungant Nymphisque Hymenaeos.
Passing now to the consideration of the nymphs as deities of birth, we must first of all speak of Carmentis (Carmenta). That she was a nymph is shown by Verg. Aen. 8, 336 and Serv. ad loc.; Sext. Aur. Or. 5, 1; Dion. H. 1, 31; Strabo 5, 230; Isid. 1, 4, 1. Roman matrons honored her as a goddess of birth and of women in two festivals, one on the eleventh, the other on the fifteenth of January.1 Further evidence that she was a deity of birth is found in Varro, De L. L. 7, 84; Ov. Fast. 1, 617-630; Gell. 16, 16, 4; Aug. De Civ. Dei, 4, n; Plut. Rom. 21; Q. R. 56. It was also probably because she was a deity of birth that she was called Nona Decima from the two months in which especially births took place.2
Carmentis, moreover, was not worshipped in these two festivals only, for she had a temple at Rome standing near the porta Carmentalis.8 Plut. Rom. 21, gives further evidence which tends to show that she was commonly worshipped by women:
The antiquity of the festival shows that this cult goes back to an early period. From the Fasti Praenestini for the fifteenth of January, the day on which the second festival was celebrated (C. I. L. I, p. 312), it appears that this second festival was probably established near the middle of the fifth century B.c. (cf. C. I. L. I, p. 384). Since, moreover, the temple of Carmentis had a flamen* her cult must have been an ancient one. Plutarch then shows that the worship of this nymph by women still existed in his time.
The nymph Egeria was also a deity of birth, and women when pregnant offered sacrifice to her; cf. Paul. Diac. Ep. Fest., p. 7 7: Egeriae nymphae sacrificabantpraegnantes, quod eam putabant facile concepiam alvum egerere. This nymph is also connected by Strabo, 5, 239,6 with the cult of Diana Nemorensis, who was a goddess of birth. If the passage of Paulus Diaconus goes back to Flaccus himself we have evidence here that in the first century B.c. Egeria was worshipped as a birth-deity.
It seems very probable that the Camenae were deities of birth as well as muses, because of their close connection with Egeria1 and Carmentis,2 as has been conjectured by Wissowa, Rel. u. Kult. d. Rom., p. 180. The question now arises as to whether the Camenae were nymphs. Wissowa, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Camenae, holds that they were regarded as nymphs at an early time, because of the fact that their cult was connected with springs. Since little further evidence has been advanced by anyone to show that the Camenae were nymphs, I have endeavored to find what other grounds, if any, there are for believing that they were so regarded. There are, I think, several facts of importance, in addition to the one mentioned by Wissowa, which go to show that they were at an early time regarded as nymphs and were, to some extent at least, thought of in this way down to a late period. In the first place, the Camenae are called nymphs by Varro in Serv. Verg. Eel. 7, 21; Acr. Hor. Carm. 2, 19, 3; compare also Aug. De Mus. 3; Tertul. Adv. Marc. 1, 13.8 Egeria and Carmentis, who as prophetesses were closely connected with the Camenae, were nymphs. Further, we find in Ovid, Met. 14, 434, a nymph Camena who must surely be connected with the Camenae. Moreover, of the Greek muses who were identified by the Romans with the Camenae, Clio is called a Nereid by Hyg. Fab. pr.; Oceanis by Verg. Georg. 4, 341; Thalia is a nymph according to Verg. Georg. 4, 338; Aen. 5, 826; Macr. 5, 19, 18; Clement. Homil. 5, 13, and a Nereid according to Hyg. Fab. pr. It seems also very probable that the Camenae were at some time at least regarded as nymphs, since the nymphs themselves were invoked as muses. Such is the case in the following passages: Verg. Eel. 7,21; 10, 1; 10, 10; Cul. 18-19; Ov. Fast. 1, 465-468; Calp. 9, 20-24;
Finally, the fact that among the Greeks also the muses were called nymphs supports the view that the Camenae were so regarded by the Romans. For the passages where the muses are called nymphs, cf. Bloch, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Nymphen, p. 518-519, to which should be added: Hesych. s. v. Nv/»|ku and Euseb. Pr. Ev. 5, 9, p. 416 (Gsf.).1 Further, of the ten muses, Thalia is a Nereid in Horn. //. 18, 39; Erato is a nymph in Paus. 8, 4i 2 i 8, 37, 11; a Nereid in Hesych. Th. 247; Pseudo-Apollod. 1, 2, 7; Urania is a nymph in Hom. Carm. in Cer. 424; an Oceanid in Hesych. Th. 350.
Since, therefore, it seems very probable that at least at an early time the Camenae were regarded as nymphs, and since the nymphs Egeria and Carmentis, who were so closely related to the Camenae, were birthdeities, the Camenae also without much doubt were originally nymphs who presided over birth, in addition to possessing the power of prophecy. There is no direct evidence, however, that they were so regarded in the classical period.
Opis, whom we have already shown to be a nymph (p. 103), was believed by the Romans, as well as by the Greeks, to be a birth-deity, according to Aug. Civ. Dei, 4, 11: Opis, quae opem feral nascentibus, excipiendo eos sinu terrae.
Finally, as to this cult of the nymphs, a passage in Pliny should be cited, N. H. 31, 8: In eadem Campaniae regione Sinuessanae aquae sterilitatem feminarum et virorum insaniam abolere produntur. That the Nymphae Sinuessanae were commonly known is shown by Mart. Ep. 11, 82, 5-6. It is therefore probable that women believed that they also had the power of averting barrenness, yet it should be remembered that springs and rivers were held to possess this power; cf. Plin. N. H. 31, 10.
This completes the evidence I have been able to gather concerning the nymphs as deities of marriage and birth among the Romans. The only passage which would directly connect their worship with marriage is that concerning the Camelae maidens, but whether or not they were nymphs is uncertain. It is certain, however, that the nymphs presided over birth. Carmentis was so worshipped from probably the fourth century and certainly through the later period of the Republic down at least to the time of Plutarch. Egeria was honored as a deity of birth, and possibly in the last- century of the Republic, as is shown by the passage from Paulus. That the Camenae also presided over birth, at least in an early period, has been shown to be probable. From St, Augustine, finally, who must have been well acquainted with the former cults of Roman deities, we may conclude that Opis was a birth-deity.
The fact that among both the Greeks and Romans the nymphs were deities of birth is undoubtedly to be explained on the ground that the nymphs were preeminently water-deities connected with every source of water, and water gives fertility and life itself to everything which grows. They were, therefore, naturally believed to give fertility not only to everything growing from the ground but also to man.
The Names Of The Nymphs
I shall now give a list of the names of all the nymphs and general classes of nymphs, citing at least one passage where each is so called. After those names which are almost certainly the names of nymphs, although no place can be found where they are so called, I have placed an interrogation mark. In the case, however, of the daughters of the river-god Asopus I have not done so, since they are shown to be nymphs by Eur. Her. F. 785, where the 'Ao-unriaSts Kopai are called nymphs. Moreover, of his daughters, Oivwvrj is a nymph according to Ov. Her. 5, 10; Luc. 9, 973, and Upovorj is a Nereid according to Hesych. Th. 261. I have not given the names of springs where there is no reference to nymphs of these springs, although every spring probably had its nymph or nymphs who regularly had the same name as that of the spring.
The names of the Nereids have already been collected by Weizsacker, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Nereiden. To his list of ninety-eight names, of which he finds seventy-seven in Homer, Hesiod, Pseudo-Apollodorus, and Hyginus, fourteen in Vergil, and seven on vases, I have added eighteen others.
The names of the Oceanids have also been given by Weizsacker, Rosch. Lex. s. v. Okeaniden.