In Greek mythology, a Charis (Χάρις) is one of several Charites (Χάριτες; Greek: "Graces"), goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility. They ordinarily numbered three, from youngest to oldest: Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Mirth"), and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae, the "Graces". In some cases Charis was one of the Graces and was not the plural form of their name.
The Charites were usually considered the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, though they were also said to be daughters of Dionysus and Aphrodite or of Helios and the naiad Aegle. Homer wrote that they were part of the retinue of Aphrodite. The Charites were also associated with the Greek underworld and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The river Cephissus near Delphi was sacred to them.
Although the Graces usually numbered three, according to the Spartans, Cleta, not Thalia, was the third, and other Graces are sometimes mentioned, including Auxo, Charis, Hegemone, Phaenna, and Pasithea. An ancient vase painting attests the following names: Antheia, Eudaimonia, Paidia, Pandaisia, Pannychis - all referring to the Charites as patronesses of amusement and festivities.
Pausanias interrupts his Description of Greece (book 9.xxxv.1–7) to expand upon the various conceptions of the Graces that had developed in different parts of mainland Greece and Ionia:
On the representation of the Graces, Pausanias wrote,
In Renaissance times, the Roman statue group of the three graces in the Piccolomini library in Duomo di Siena inspired most themes.
The Charites are depicted together with several other mythological figures in Sandro Botticelli's painting Primavera (above right). Raphael also pictured them in a painting now housed in Chantilly in France. Among other artistic depictions, they are the subject of famous sculptures by Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen.
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