The Myth of Poseidon and Amphitrite | Naxos, 24 Feb. 2017

AMPHITRITE was the goddess-queen of the sea, wife of Poseidon, and eldest of the fifty Nereides. She was the female personification of the sea–the loud-moaning mother of fish, seals and dolphins.

When Poseidon first sought Amphitrite’s hand in marriage, she fled his advances, and hid herself away near Atlas in the Ocean stream at the far ends of the earth. The dolphin-god Delphin eventually tracked her down and persuaded her to return to wed the sea-king.

Amphitrite was depicted in Greek vase painting as a young woman, often raising her hand in a pinching gesture. Sometimes she was shown holding a fish. In mosaic art the goddess usually rides beside her husband in a chariot drawn by fish-tailed horses or hippokampoi. Sometimes her hair is enclosed with a net and her brow adorned with a pair of crab-claw “horns”.

Her name is probably derived from the Greek words amphis and tris, “the surrounding third.” Her son Tritôn was similarly named “of the third.” Clearly “the third” is the sea, although the reason for the term is obscure. Amphitrite was essentially the same as the primordial sea-goddess Thalassa. Her Roman equivalent was Salacia whose name means “the salty one.”

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