Acis – Greek Mythology

Affiliate Disclosures

Acis is a minor character in Greek mythology, mentioned in the writings of Ovid.  He is best known as the lover of the Nereid Galatea and appears in the popular myth Acis and Galatea. Here’s his story.

The Story of Acis and Galatea

Acis was a mortal and the son of Faunus and the river-nymph Symaethus. He lived in Sicily and worked as a shepherd. Known for his beauty, he caught the eye of Galatea, one of the fifty Nereids who were sea nymph. The two fell in love with each other and spent a lot of time together in Sicily.

However, Polyphemus, a cyclops and son of Poseidon, was also in love with Galatea and was jealous of Acis, who he considered his rival.

Polyphemus plotted to kill Acis and finally came up with an idea. Known for his brute strength, Polyphemus lifted up a large boulder and threw it on Acis, crushing him beneath it. Acis was killed instantly.

Galatea mourned for Acis and decided to create an everlasting memorial for him. From the flowing blood of Acis, she created the River Acis, which flowed from the base of Mount Etna. Today, the river is known as Jaci.

Significance of Acis  

While this story is popular, it’s only mentioned in one source – in Book XIV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Due to this, some scholars believe that this was an invention of Ovid’s rather than a story from Greek mythology.

In any case, the subject of Acis and Galatea became highly popular during the Renaissance and was depicted in several visual and literary works of art. While there exists several paintings and sculptures of Galatea alone, Acis is typicaly depicted together with Galatea, either courting her, dying or dead.

Acis, on his own, isn’t well-known or important. He’s only known in the context of this story.