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Although not a central figure of Greek mythology, Nyx is one of the most important as a primordial being. She was one of the first beings to ever exist and was also the mother of several ancient gods and other beings of the night.
The Myth of Creation
According to Greek mythology, in the beginning, there was only Chaos, who was just void and emptiness. From Chaos, the primordial deities, or Protogenoi, emerged and started giving shape to the world.
Nyx was one of the first beings to ever exist on the earth with Gaia, the primordial deity of earth, and Erebus, the darkness. The division of the day into day and night began with the presence of Nyx.
Nyx coupled with Erebus and together, they bore Aether, the personification of light, and Hemera, the personification of day. And so, the three of them created the eternal connection between day and night. Nyx, with her dark veil, covered Aether’s light at dusk to declare the night, but Hemera brought Aether back at dawn to welcome the day.
The Personification of Night
According to some sources, Nyx dwelt in the abyss of the Tartarus with other immortal beings; some other sources place her dwelling in a cave in the underworld.
In most of her depictions, she is seen as a winged goddess with a crown of dark mists to represent the night. She’s also depicted as being very beautiful and attractive, commanding immense respect.
It’s said that Zeus was conscious of her power and decided not to bother her, there are no records of what her exact powers were.
Nyx was the mother of several gods and immortal beings, which gives her a noticeable role in Greek Mythology.
- She was the mother of the twins Hypnos and Thanatos, who were the primordial deities of sleep and death, respectively. In some myths, she was also the mother of the Oneiroi, who were the dreams.
- She’s sometimes described as the mother of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.
- According to Hesiod in Theogony, Nyx also bore Moros (the personification of doom), the Keres (female dead spirits), and the Moirai, known as the Fates, (the ones to assign people their fates).
- Some authors propose that Nyx was also the mother of the Erinyes (Furies), who were hideous monsters, Nemesis, who was the goddess of justice, and the Hesperides, who were the nymphs of the evening.
There are several myths of other beings born from Nyx, but all of them agree on the fact that besides her first children with Erebus, she alone brought to life all the other beings that came out of the night.
The Myths of Nyx
In most myths, Nyx took part as a secondary character or is named as the mother of one of the main figures.
- In Homer’s Iliad, Hera asks Hypnos, the god of sleep, to induce sleep on Zeus so that Hera could take revenge on Heracles without Zeus’ interventions. When Zeus woke up, he was maddened by the insolence of Hypnos and went to the Underworld after him. Nyx stood up to defend her son, and Zeus, conscious of the power of the goddess, decided to leave him alone in order not to engage in a feud her.
- In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Nyx is invoked for witchcraft practices. In the chants of witchcraft, they ask Nyx and Hecate to give their favor so that magic can be performed. Later, the enchantress Circe prays to Nyx and her night creatures to accompany her with their power for the dark magic that she will perform.
- Other myths refer to the blood sacrifices that the people offered Nyx at night to ask for her favor.
Nyx in Greek Art
Several authors mention Nyx in their writings, even though she does not appear as the main character or the antagonist in the Greek tragedies. She delivers a minor role in the writings – of Aeschylus, Euripides, Homer, Ovid, Seneca, and Virgil.
In vase paintings, artists normally portrayed her as an imposing woman with a dark crown and wings. In some of her depictions, she is seen with Selene, the goddess of the moon, in some others, with Eos, the personification of dawn.
Nyx is described as living in Tartarus.
Nyx is a primordial being that came out of Chaos.
Nyx’s consort was Erebus, who represented the personification of darkness. He was also her brother.
Nyx’s Roman equivalent is Nox.
Nyx had many children, of which the most notable are Nemesis, Hypnos, Thanatos and the Moirai.
Zeus feared her powers and the fact that she was older and stronger. However, what these powers are isn’t specifically mentioned anywhere.
Nyx is ambivalent, and can be both good and evil to humans.
A famous cosmetics company called NYX, is named after the Greek goddess of night. A mons (mountain/peak) on the planet Venus was named Nyx, in honor of the goddess. Characters called Nyx feature in many video games.
Nyx, the goddess of the night, has a small yet important role in Greek mythology. Her name might not be as well-known as those of Hera or Aphrodite, but anybody powerful enough to have Zeus hesitate about getting into a fight with them should be recognized as a mighty being. As a primordial being, Nyx continues to be at the foundation of Greek mythology.