Amphitrite

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In ancient Greek mythology, Amphitrite (Ἀμφιτρίτη) was a sea-goddess and wife of Poseidon.[1] Under the influence of the Olympian pantheon, she became merely the consort of Poseidon, and was further diminished by poets to a symbolic representation of the sea. In Roman mythology, the consort of Neptune, a comparatively minor figure, was Salacia, the goddess of saltwater.[2]

Contents

Mythography

Amphitrite was a daughter of Nereus and Doris (and thus a Nereid), according to Hesiod's Theogony, but of Oceanus and Tethys (and thus an Oceanid), according to Apollodorus, who actually lists her among both of the Nereids[3] and the Oceanids.[4] Others called her the personification of the sea itself. Amphitrite's offspring included seals[5] and dolphins.[6] Poseidon and Amphitrite had a son, Triton who was a merman, and a daughter, Rhode (if this Rhode was not actually fathered by Poseidon on Halia or was not the daughter of Asopus as others claim). Apollodorus (3.15.4) also mentions a daughter of Poseidon and Amphitrite named Benthesikyme.

Amphitrite is not fully personified in the Homeric epics: "out on the open sea, in Amphitrite's breakers" (Odyssey iii.101), "moaning Amphitrite" nourishes fishes "in numbers past all counting" (Odyssey xii.119). She shares her Homeric epithet Halosydne ("sea-nourished")[7] with Thetis[8] in some sense the sea-nymphs are doublets.

Representation and cult

Though Amphitrite does not figure in Greek cultus, at an archaic stage she was of outstanding importance, for in the Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, she appears at the birthing of Apollo among "all the chiefest of the goddesses, Dione and Rhea and Ichnaea and Themis and loud-moaning Amphitrite." Theseus in the submarine halls of his father Poseidon saw the daughters of Nereus dancing with liquid feet, and "august, ox-eyed Amphitrite", who wreathed him with her wedding wreath, according to a fragment of Bacchylides. Jane Ellen Harrison recognized in the poetic treatment an authentic echo of Amphitrite's early importance: "It would have been much simpler for Poseidon to recognize his own son... the myth belongs to that early stratum of mythology when Poseidon was not yet god of the sea, or, at least, no-wise supreme there—Amphitrite and the Nereids ruled there, with their servants the Tritons. Even so late as the Iliad Amphitrite is not yet 'Neptuni uxor'" [Neptune's wife]".[9]

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