Thriae

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The Thriae or Thriai were nymphs, three virginal sisters, one of a number of such triads ("maiden trinities" Jane Ellen Harrison called them) in Greek mythology[1] who were able to see the future and interpret the signs of nature and omens, a gift they taught Apollo, who passed it to Hermes. They received names Melaina ("the Black"), Kleodora ("Famed for her Gift"), and Daphnis ("Laurel").[2] The Homeric Hymn to Hermes places them in Mount Parnassus, where they have taught the art of divination to the youthful Apollo who addresses Hermes in the hymn:

"They are in a word 'Melissae', honey-priestesses, inspired by a honey-intoxicant; they are bees, their heads white with pollen." Jane Harrison observed.[6]

A fragment of Philochorus quoted by Zenobius additionally makes them nurses of Apollo, of which Jane Ellen Harrison observed "Save for this mention we never hear that Apollo had any nurses, he was wholly the son of his father. Is it not more probable that they were nurses of Dionysus?"[7] and she noted from the Sudas a remark "they call the madness of poets thriasis. Through a doubtful etymology William Smith asserted the Thriae were "believed to have invented the art of prophecy by means of little stones (thriai), which were thrown into an urn" (Smith 1870) and the assertion is often repeated, though Philochorus makes it plain that the mantic pebbles were named after the three Thriae, rather than the other way round. The earliest mention of the Thriai, in a fragment of Pherecydes simply states that they were three in number, whence their name. Susan Scheinman argues that the bee-nymphs should be disassociated with the Thriai, "by the omission of any reference in the Hymn to the chief attribute of the Thriae, their mantic pebbles." (Scheinman 1979:14); she prefers the reading Semnai for the three bee-maidens.</ref>

The Thriai may have been conflated in the Homeric hymn with the Coryciae, nymphs of the prophetic springs of Mount Parnassos, and in such a connection thought of as "daughters" of Apollo.

"The Thriai inspired the old crow [either a bird, or an old seeress]." Callimachus, Hecale (Fragment 260).[8] Callimachus also alludes to the Thriae in his Hymn to Apollo (line 250)

The Rhodes gold plaques of bee-goddesses are not unique; a relief in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston also depicts a goddess with the head of a woman and the body of a bee.

References

Sources

  • Harrison, Jane Ellen 1922. A Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 3rd edition, pp. 441–43.
  • Robbins, Frank Egleston Robbins 1916. "The Lot Oracle at Delphi" Classical Philology 11.3 (July 1916), pp. 278–292.
  • Smith, William, 1870Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology: "Thriae".
  • Scheinberg, Susan 1979. "The Bee Maidens of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 83 (1979), pp. 1–28.

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