Triton (mythology)

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Triton (Τρίτων, gen: Τρίτωνος) is a mythological Greek god, the messenger of the sea. He is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, whose herald he is. He is usually represented as a merman, having the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish, "sea-hued", according to Ovid[1] "his shoulders barnacled with sea-shells".

Like his father, Poseidon, he carried a trident. However, Triton's special attribute was a twisted conch shell, on which he blew like a trumpet to calm or raise the waves. Its sound was so terrible, that when loudly blown, it put the giants to flight, who imagined it to be the roar of a dark wild beast.[2]

According to Hesiod's Theogony,[3] Triton dwelt with his parents in a golden palace in the depths of the sea; Homer places his seat in the waters off Aegae.[4] The story of the Argonauts places his home on the coast of Libya. When the Argo was driven ashore in the Gulf of Syrtes Minor, the crew carried the vessel to the "Tritonian Lake", Lake Tritonis, whence Triton, the local deity euhemeristically rationalized by Diodorus Siculus as "then ruler over Libya",[5] welcomed them with a guest-gift of a clod of earth and guided them through the lake's marshy outlet back to the Mediterranean.[6]

Triton was the father of Pallas and foster parent to the goddess Athena.[7] Pallas was killed by Athena during a fight between the two goddesses.[8] Triton is also sometimes cited as the father of Scylla by Lamia. Triton can sometimes be multiplied into a host of Tritones, daimones of the sea.

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Tritons

Over time, Triton's name and image came to be associated with a class of merman-like creatures, the Tritons (Τρίτωνες), which could be male or female, and usually formed the escort of marine divinities. Tritons were a race of sea gods and goddesses born from Triton. Triton lived with his parents, Poseidon and Amphitrite, who was also known as Celaeno, in a golden palace on the bottom of the sea. According to Homer it was called Aegae. Unlike their ancestor Poseidon who is always fully anthropomorphic in ancient art (this has only changed in modern popular culture), Tritons' lower half is that of a fish, while the top half is presented in a human figure. This is debated often because their appearance is described differently throughout history. Ordinary Tritons were described in detail by the traveller Pausanias (ix. 21).[9][10]

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