In Greek mythology, the Nereids are Haliad nymphs and therefore minor goddesses of the sea. There are fifty of them in total, and they and their brother, Nerites, were the children of Nereus and Doris. Their freshwater "sisters" are known as the Naiads.
The Nereids were also the matrons of sailors and fishermen, coming to the aid of men in distress, and had the sea's rich bounty in their care. Individually, they also represented various facets of the sea, such as salty brine, foam, sand, rocky shores, waves, currents, and even the various skills possessed by seamen. They often accompany Poseidon, and are always friendly and helpful towards sailors fighting perilous storms.
The Nereids are particularly associated with the Aegean Sea, where they dwelt with their father in the depths within a silvery cave. The most notable of them are:
- Thetis: The wife of Peleus and mother of Achilles.
- Amphitrite: The wife of Poseidon as well as the Queen of the Sea.
- Galatea: The lover of the Cyclops Polyphemus.
The Nereids were described to be famously beautiful, with long flowing hair as dark as midnight, sea-green eyes, and gossamer white dresses that billowed around them in the water. Poseidon himself was very proud of their beauty, and was quick to take offense if someone dared to compete with them in beauty.
However, the most beautiful Nereid of all was Amphitrite, whose eyes were mocha-dark instead of sea-green, and who radiated a gentle kindness that was rare among goddesses. Later on, she married Poseidon and became the Queen of the Sea.
A Nereid from Poseidon's court helped Percy Jackson get to the Underworld after he jumped off the St. Louis Arch. She gave him Poseidon's Pearls. Percy mistakes her for his mother. She appears in the Mississippi River for a short while, using the help of her sisters, the Naiads. She said that the water was too foul for her to stay there for long.
Nereids in Modern Times
In modern Greek folklore, the term "Nereid" has come to be used of all nymphs, or fairies, not merely nymphs of the sea.
Difference Between the Naiads
Nereids are sea nymphs, but they are only used to sea water, unlike the Naiads who are fresh water nymphs. The Nereids serve in Poseidon's court while the Naiads do not.
- Nereid is a moon of the planet Neptune. It was named after this species.
- Amphitrite was the Nereid who married Poseidon and became the queen of the sea.
- Thetis, the mother of Achilles, was a Nereid as well as their (unofficial) leader.
- Together with the Tritones they formed the retinue of Poseidon.
- The Nereids were depicted in ancient art as beautiful young maidens, sometimes running with small dolphins or fish in their hands, or else riding on the back of dolphins, hippocampi (fish-tailed horses) and other sea creatures.