1000 Mythological Characters Briefly Described

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Nastrond (Nas′trond). The Scandinavian place of eternal punishment, corresponding with Hades.

Hero stands distraught over the drowned Leander

See page 66

Hero and Leander

[93] Natio (Na′tio). A Roman goddess who took care of young infants.

Nemaean Lion (Nemae′an), see Hercules.

Nemesis (Nem′esis), the goddess of vengeance or justice, was one of the infernal deities. Her mother was Nox. She was supposed to be constantly traveling about the earth in search of wickedness, which she punished with the greatest severity. She is referred to by some writers under the name of Adrasteia. The Romans always sacrificed to this goddess before they went to war, because they wished to signify that they never took up arms but in the cause of justice.

“Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan,
The fainting, trembling hand was mine alone.”
Dr. J. Wharton.

Nephalia (Nepha′lia). Grecian festivals in honor of Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses.

Neptune (Nep′tune), god of the sea, was a son of Saturn and Cybele, and brother to Jupiter and Pluto. He quarreled with Jupiter because he did not consider that the dominion of the sea was equal to Jupiter’s empire of heaven and earth; and he was banished from the celestial regions, after having conspired with Pluto to dethrone Jupiter. Neptune was married to Amphitrite, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, by whom he had a son named Triton. He was also father of Polyphemus (one of the Cyclopes), Phoreus, and Proteus. Neptune [94] is represented as being seated in a shell chariot, drawn by dolphins or sea-horses, and surrounded by Tritons and sea-nymphs. He holds in his hand a trident, with which he rules the waves. Though a marine deity, he was reputed to have presided over horse-training and horse-races; but he is principally known as the god of the ocean; and the two functions of the god are portrayed in the sea horses with which his chariot is drawn, the fore-half of the animal being a horse, and the hind-half a dolphin. Ships were also under his protection, and whenever he appeared on the ocean there was a dead calm.

Nereides, The (Nere′ides), were aquatic nymphs. They were daughters of Nereus and Doris, and were fifty in number. They are generally represented as beautiful girls riding on dolphins, and carrying tridents in the right hand or garlands of flowers.

Nereus (Nere′us). A sea deity, husband of Doris. He had the gift of prophecy, and foretold fates; but he had also the power of assuming various shapes, which enabled him to escape from the importunities of those who were anxious to consult him.

Nessus (Nes′sus). The name of the Centaur that was destroyed by Hercules for insulting his wife Deianira. Nessus’s blood-smeared robe proved fatal to Hercules.

Nestor (Nes′tor). A grandson of Neptune, his father [95] being Neleus, and his mother Chloris. Homer makes him one of the greatest of the Greek heroes. He was present at the famous battle between the Lapithae and the Centaurs, and took a leading part in the Trojan war.

“... Here’s Nestor
Instructed by the antiquary times,
He must, he is, he cannot but be wise.”

Nicephorus (Niceph′orus). A name of Jupiter, meaning the bearer of victory.

Nidhogg (Nid′hogg). In Scandinavian mythology the dragon who dwells in Nastrond.

Niflheim (Nifl′heim). The Scandinavian hell. It was supposed to consist of nine vast regions of ice beneath the North Pole, where darkness reigns eternally. See Nastrond.

Night, see Nox.

Nightingale, see Philomela.

Nightmare, see Incubus.

Nilus (Ni′lus), a king of Thebes, who gave his name to the Nile, the great Egyptian river.

Nine, The, see Muses.

Niobe (Ni′obe) was a daughter of Tantalus, and is the personification of grief. By her husband Amphion she had seven sons and seven daughters. By the orders of Latona the father and sons were killed by Apollo, and the daughters (except Chloris) by Diana. Niobe, being overwhelmed with grief, escaped further trouble by being turned into a stone.

[96] Nomius (No′mius). A law-giver; one of the names of Apollo. This title was also given to Mercury for the part he took in inventing beneficent laws.

Norns. Three Scandinavian goddesses, who wove the woof of human destiny. The three witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” have their origin in the Scandinavian Norns.

Notus (No′tus). Another name for Auster, the south wind.

Nox was the daughter of Chaos, and sister of Erebus and Mors. She personified night, and was the mother of Nemesis and the Fates.

Nundina (Nundi′na). The goddess who took charge of children when they were nine days old—the day (Nona dies) on which the Romans named their children.

Nuptialis (Nuptia′lis). A title of Juno. When the goddess was invoked under this name the gall of the victim was taken out and thrown behind the altar, signifying that there should be no gall (bitterness) or anger between married people.

Nuriel (Nu′riel). In Hebrew mythology the god of hailstorms.

Nyctelius (Nycte′lius). A name given to Bacchus, because his festivals were celebrated by torchlight.

Nymphs. This was a general name for a class of inferior female deities who were attendants of the gods. Some of them presided over springs, fountains, wells, woods, and [97] the sea. They are spoken of as land-nymphs or Naiads, and sea-nymphs or Nereids, though the former are associated also with fountains and rivers. The Dryads were forest-nymphs, and the Hamadryads were nymphs who lived among the oak-trees—the oak being always specially venerated by the ancients. The mountain-nymphs were called Oreads.

“With flower-inwoven tresses torn,
The nymphs in twilight shade
Of tangled thickets mourn.”

Nysae (Ny′sae). The names of the nymphs by whom Bacchus was nursed. See Dionysius.

Nysaeus (Ny′saeus). A name of Bacchus, because he was worshiped at Nysa, a town of Aethiopia.

Nysus (Ny′sus). A king of Megara who was invisible by virtue of a particular lock of hair. This lock his daughter Scylla cut off, and so betrayed her father to his enemies. She was changed into a lark, and the king into a hawk, and he still pursues his daughter, intending to punish her for her treachery.

Oannes (Oan′nes). An Eastern (Babylonian) god, represented as a monster, half-man, half-fish. He was said to have taught men the use of letters in the day-time, and at night to have retired to the depth of the ocean.

Oath, see Lapis.

[98] Obambou (Obam′bou). A devil of African mythology.

Ocean, see Neptune.

Oceanides (Ocean′ides). Sea-nymphs, daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. Their numbers are variously estimated by different poets; some saying there were as many as 3,000, while others say they were as few as sixteen. The principal of them are mentioned under their respective names, as Amphitrite, Doris, Metis, etc.

Oceanus (Oce′anus), son of Coelus and Terra, and husband of Tethys. Several mythological rivers were called his sons, as Alpheus, Peneus, etc., and his daughters were called the Oceanides. Some of the ancients worshiped him as the god of the seas, and invariably invoked his aid when they were about to start on a voyage. He was also thought to personify the immense stream which it was supposed surrounded the earth, and into which the sun and moon and other heavenly bodies sank every day.

Ocridion (Ocrid′ion). A king of Rhodes, who was deified after his death.

Ocypete (Ocy′pete). One of the Harpies, who infected everything she touched. The word means swift of flight.

Ocyroe (Ocy′roe). A daughter of Chiron, who had the gift of prophecy. She was metamorphosed into a mare.

Odin (O′din). In Scandinavian mythology the god of [99] the universe, and reputed father of all the Scandinavian kings. His wife’s name was Friga, and his two sons were Thor and Balder. The Wodin of the early German tribes.

Oeagrus (Oe′agrus). King of Thrace, and father of Orpheus.

Oedipus (Oed′ipus). A son of Laius, King of Thebes, best known as the solver of the famous enigma propounded by the Sphinx. In solving the riddle Oedipus unwittingly killed his father, and, discovering the fact, he destroyed his own eyesight, and wandered away from Thebes, attended by his daughter Antigone. Oedipus is the subject of two famous tragedies by Sophocles.

Oenone (Oeno′ne). Wife of Paris, a nymph of Mount Ida, who had the gift of prophecy.

Ogygia (Ogyg′ia). An island, the abode of Calypso, in the Mediterranean Sea, on which Ulysses was shipwrecked. It was so beautiful in sylvan scenery that even Mercury (who dwelt on Olympus) was charmed with the spot.

Ointment, see Phaon.

Olenus (Ole′nus). A son of Vulcan, who married Lathaea, a woman who thought herself more beautiful than the goddesses, and as a punishment she and her husband were turned into stone statues.

Olives, see Aristaeus.

Olympius (Olym′pius). A name of Jupiter, from Olympia, where the god had a splendid temple, which [100] was considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

Olympus (Olym′pus) was the magnificent mountain on the coast of Thessaly, 9,000 feet high, where the gods were supposed to reside. There were several other smaller mountains of the same name.

“High heaven with trembling the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the center shook.”

Olyras (Oly′ras). A river near Thermopylae, which, it is said, attempted to extinguish the funeral pile on which Hercules was consumed.

Omophagia (Omopha′gia). A Bacchanalian festival at which some uncooked meats were served.

Omphale (Om′phale). The Queen of Lydia, to whom Hercules was sold as a bondsman for three years for the murder of Iphitus. Hercules fell in love with her, and led an effeminate life in her society, wearing female apparel, while Omphale wore the lion’s skin.

Onarus (Ona′rus). A priest of Bacchus, said to have married Ariadne after she had been abandoned by Theseus.

Onuva (Onu′va). The Venus of the ancient Gauls.

Opalia (Opa′lia). Roman festivals in honor of Ops, held on 14th of the calends of January.

Opiate-rod, see Caduceus.

“Eyes ... more wakeful than to drowse,
Charmed with Arcadian pipe—the pastoral reed
Of Hermes or his opiate-rod.”

[101] Ops. Mother of the gods, a daughter of Coelus and Terra. She was known by the several names of Bona Dea, Rhea, Cybele, Magna Mater, Proserpine, Tellus, and Thya; and occasionally she is spoken of as Juno and Minerva. She personified labor, and is represented as a comely matron, distributing gifts with her right hand, and holding in her left hand a loaf of bread. Her festival was the 14th day of the January calends.

Oracles, see Themis.

Oraea (Orae′a). Certain sacrifices offered to the goddesses of the seasons to invoke fair weather for the ripening of the fruits of the earth.

Orbona (Orbo′na). Roman goddess of children, invoked by mothers when they lost or were in danger of losing their offspring.

Orchards, see Feronia.

Oreades (O′reades) were mountain nymphs, attendants on Diana.

Orgies. Drunken revels. The riotous feasts of Bacchus were so designated.

Orion (Ori′on). A handsome hunter, of great stature, who was blinded by Oenopion for a grievous wrong done to Merope, and was therefore expelled from Chios. The sound of the Cyclops’ hammers led him to the abode of Vulcan, who gave him a guide. He then consulted an oracle, and had his sight restored, as Longfellow says, by fixing

“His blank eyes upon the sun.”

[102] He was afterward slain by Diana and placed amongst the stars, where his constellation is one of the most splendid.

Orithyia (Ori′thy′ia). A daughter of Erechtheus, whose lover, Boreas, carried her off while she was wandering by the river Ilissus. Her children were Zetus and Calais, two winged warriors who accompanied the Argonauts.

Ormuzd (Or′muzd). In Persian mythology the creator of all things.

Oros (O′ros). The Egyptian Apollo.

Orphans, see Orbona.

Orpheus (Or′pheus) was son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. He was married to Eurydice; but she was stung by a serpent, and died. Orpheus went down to Hades to claim her, and played so sweetly with his lute that Pluto allowed Eurydice to return to the earth with Orpheus, but on condition that he did not look behind him until he had reached the terrestrial regions. Orpheus, however, in his anxiety to see if she were following him, looked round, and Eurydice disappeared from his sight, instantly and forever.

Orpheus’ lute was strung with poets’ sinews.”

Osiris (Osi′ris). The Egyptian god of the sun, the source of warmth, life, and fruitfulness; he was worshiped under the form of a sacred bull, named Apis.

[103] “... After these appeared
A crew who, under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek
Their wandering gods, disguised in brutish forms
Rather than human.”