For those who know me well know that I have a deep connection and fascination with the Gods, Goddesses and all spirits of the sea. I feel like most of the deities of the sea are not talked about enough and today’s blog post is honor and share with my readers all about the amazing Greek sea goddess Amphitrite.
AMPHITRITE was the goddess-queen of the sea, wife of Poseidon, and eldest of the fifty Nereides. She was the female personification of the sea–the loud-moaning mother of fish, seals and dolphins.
When Poseidon first sought Amphitrite’s hand in marriage, she fled his advances, and hid herself away near Atlas in the Ocean stream at the far ends of the earth. The dolphin-god Delphin eventually tracked her down and persuaded her to return to wed the sea-king.
Amphitrite was depicted in Greek vase painting as a young woman, often raising her hand in a pinching gesture. Sometimes she was shown holding a fish. In mosaic art the goddess usually rides beside her husband in a chariot drawn by fish-tailed horses or hippokampoi. Sometimes her hair is enclosed with a net and her brow adorned with a pair of crab-claw “horns”.
Her name is probably derived from the Greek words amphis and tris, “the surrounding third.” Her son Tritôn was similarly named “of the third.” Clearly “the third” is the sea, although the reason for the term is obscure. Amphitrite was essentially the same as the primordial sea-goddess Thalassa. Her Roman equivalent was Salacia whose name means “the salty one.” SOURCE
Birth & Family
According to Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) in his Theogony, Amphitrite was the daughter of Nereus, a sea god who was sometimes referred to as the ‘old man of the sea’, and Doris, an Oceanid who was the daughter of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. Amphitrite was one of the 50 Nereids.
And Nereus and Doris, lovely-haired
Daughter of Oceanus circling stream,
Begot and bore, in the unfruitful sea,
Their children, most beloved of goddesses:
Protho, Eukrante, Sao, Amphitrite,
Eudore, Thetis, Galene, Glauce, and
Cymothoe, Speio, and quick Thalia,
And lovely Pasithea, Erato and
Eunike with her rosy arms, and fair
Melite, Eulimene, Agave,
Doto, Proto, Pherousa, Dynamene,
Nesaia, Aktaia, Protomedeia, and
Doris, Panope, and the beautiful
Galatea, and the lovely Hippothoe,
Rosy-armed Hipponoe, Cymodoce,
Who, acting with trim-ankled Amphitrite
And Cymatolege, easily can still
Waves on the misty sea, and calm the blasts
Of raging winds.
(Hesiod, Theogony, 241-259)
The Nereids were beautiful sea nymphs, with the highest-regarded being Amphitrite and her sister Thetis. They are represented in Greek art as sitting on dolphins and holding either tridents or garlands of flowers. Their primary duty was to attend to Poseidon. After Amphitrite married Poseidon, the Nereids became part of their royal court.
They were worshiped by sailors and fishermen with altars dedicated to them located on the seashore. Offerings of oil, honey, and milk were made to them, and sailors invoked them so they may have a favorable voyage and safe return to shores. SOURCE
The etymology of the name “Amphitrite” (Greek Ἀμφιτρίτη, translit. Amphitrítē) is uncertain. Its first element seems to be the Greek prefix ἀμφί- (amphí-), meaning “around, on each side,” while the second element resembles the Greek adjective τρίτος (trítos), meaning “third,” but also the verb τιτραίνω (titraínō), meaning “to pierce.”
Thus, Amphitrite’s name could possibly be interpreted as either “around the third” or, alternatively, as the only slightly less nonsensical “piercing on each side.” Which of these etymologies is correct—or whether the true etymology is entirely different—is impossible to know.
Titles and Epithets
Amphitrite also had a number of colorful individual epithets in ancient literature. She could be described as εὔσφυρος (eúsphyros, “fair-ankled”), βοῶπις (boôpis, “ox-eyed”), or κυανῶπις (kyanôpis, “dark-eyed”), terms that highlighted her beauty; or by the more obscure χρυσηλάκατος (chrysēlákatos, “she of the golden spindle”); or even as Ποσειδωνία (Poseidōnía, “she who is Poseidon’s”), emphasizing her role as Poseidon’s queen. Amphitrite may have also shared the Homeric epithet ἁλοσύδνη (halosýdnē, “sea-born”) with her sister Thetis. SOURCE
More Facts About Amphitrite
- The “Bibliotheca,” a collection of Greek myths and legends collected in the 1st or 2nd century, describes Amphitrite as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.
- Amphitrite at first didn’t want to marry Poseidon and hid from him.
- Another god, Delphin, talked Amphitrite into marrying Poseidon and earned a place in the sky.
- Just as the Romans called Poseidon Neptune, they called Amphitrite Salacia.
- The Romans considered Salacia to be the goddess of salt water.
- Amphitrite is also believed to have given birth to a variety of sea-creatures including seals and dolphins.
- Poseidon wasn’t a good husband and cheated on Amphitrite with other nymphs and goddesses.
- On one occasion, Amphitrite got so angry that she tossed magical herbs in the nymph Scylla’s bath, and the herbs turned Scylla into a horrible monster.
- Later Greeks viewed Amphitrite as a personification of the sea, which was also called Thalassa.
- Many ships in both the US and British Royal Navies were named after this goddess.
- There is also an asteroid called 29 Amphitrite.
- The Louvre has a statue of Amphitrite that was carved by Jacques Prou in the early 18th century.
- “The Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite,” which was painted by Nicole (Nicolas) Poussin in 1634, depicts their marriage. SOURCE
Amphitrite is a sea goddess that is truly worthy of honoring and even to this day statues and paintings of her done over the centuries can be found across Europe and the US. It is said if you visit a statue of her and leave an offering of a coin or sea shell she will grant you good luck upon your way. I plan at some point to create something in her honor and will put it on display. She is certainly a sea goddess I have much respect for.