Amphitrite: Goddess of the Sea

Amphitrite (1866), by François Théodore Devaulx (1808-1870). North façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre, Paris.

We typically associate Venus as the Goddess born of the sea (Salacia is Amphitrite’s Roman name, as Venus’s equivalent in Greek is Aphrodite), however, Amphitrite, is technically the Goddess of the Sea and wife of Poseidon. Her title is also “Queen of the Sea” in classical mythology. Amphitrite was one of the sea nymphs, Nereids, having fifty sisters in total… Poseidon fell in love with her when he saw her dancing and singing with her sisters. The story that Poseidon chose Amphitrite for his wife is unique because she was initially not enticed to be taken as Poseidon’s wife. She only agreed when he sent a dolphin for her… According to Greek Mythology, she was initially considered a major figure as she was mentioned in the Homeric Hymn at the birth of Apollo.

Amphitrite was actually a minor figure, which is likely what created her lesser status in comparison to Venus. Also, it’s quite undeniable that artworks such as Bernini’s The Birth of Venus elevated Venus to a different level in our collective cultural psyche. Poseidon and Amphitrite had a son, Triton, who was a merman (in popular culture, you are probably familiar with “King Triton” as the father of The Little Mermaid). Whether or not the Queen of the Sea is considered a minor or major figure in Greek Mythology, it is certainly worth noting her existence as Venus dominates amongst the goddesses.

Roman mosaic on a wall in the House of Neptune and Amphitrite, Herculaneum, Italy.

Amphitrite, in Greek mythology, the goddess of the sea, wife of the god Poseidon, and one of the 50 (or 100) daughters (the Nereids) of Nereus and Doris (the daughter of Oceanus). Poseidon chose Amphitrite from among her sisters as the Nereids performed a dance on the isle of Naxos. Refusing his offer of marriage, she fled to Atlas, from whom she was retrieved by a dolphin sent by Poseidon. Amphitrite then returned, becoming Poseidon’s wife; he rewarded the dolphin by making it a constellation. In works of art Amphitrite was represented either enthroned beside Poseidon or driving with him in a chariot drawn by sea horses or other fabulous sea creatures. In the famous François Vase (a 6th-century BC black-figure krater; see Kleitias), Poseidon and Amphitrite, along with Zeus and Hera, attend the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.

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