In Greek mythology, the Hesperides (Greek: Ἑσπερίδες) are nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world, located near the Atlas mountains in North Africa at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean.
According to the Sicilian Greek poet Stesichorus, in his poem the "Song of Geryon", and the Greek geographer Strabo, in his book Geographika (volume III), the Hesperides are in Tartessos, a location placed in the south of the Iberian peninsula.
By Roman times, the garden of the Hesperides had lost its archaic place in religion and had dwindled to a poetic convention, in which form it was revived in Renaissance poetry, to refer both to the garden and to the nymphs that dwelt there.
The Nymphs of the Evening
Ordinarily the Hesperides number three, like the other Greek triads (the Three Graces and the Moirae). "Since the Hesperides themselves are mere symbols of the gifts the apples embody, they cannot be actors in a human drama. Their abstract, interchangeable names are a symptom of their impersonality," Evelyn Harrison has observed; nevertheless, among the names given to them, though never all at once, are Aegle ("dazzling light"), Arethusa, Erytheia (or Erytheis), Hesperia (alternatively Hespereia, Hespere, Hespera, Hesperusa, or Hesperethoosa). Lipara, Asterope and Chrysothemis are named in a Hesperide scene of the apotheosis of Heracles (romanised to Hercules) on a late fifth-century hydria by the Meidias Painter in London They are sometimes called the Western Maidens, the Daughters of Evening, or Erythrai, the "Sunset Goddesses", designations all apparently tied to their imagined location in the distant west. Hesperis is appropriately the personification of the evening (as Eos is of the dawn) and the Evening Star is Hesperus. In addition to their tending of the garden, they were said to have taken great pleasure in singing.
They are sometimes portrayed as the evening daughters of Night (Nyx) either alone, or with Darkness (Erebus), in accord with the way Eos in the farthermost east, in Colchis, is the daughter of the titan Hyperion. Or they are listed as the daughters of Atlas, or of Zeus and either Hesperius or Themis, or Phorcys and Ceto.
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