The Three Graces in Ancient Greece

The Graces, or Charities as they were also called, were personifications of charm, grace, and beauty. Most often they were the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. Three graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thaleia are most frequently named. Social intercourse, manners, and culture were their realm and they were obvious associates of the Muses. Early images showed them clothed, but they eventually were almost always portrayed nude.

Hesiod Theogany 63: “There are (the Muses) bright dancing places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Graces and Himerus (Desire) live [65] in delight.”

Hesiod Theogany 907:”And Eurynome, the daughter of Ocean, beautiful in form, bore him three fair-cheeked Charites (Graces), Aglaea, and Euphrosyne, and lovely Thaleia, [910] from whose eyes as they glanced flowed love that unnerves the limbs: and beautiful is their glance beneath their brows.”

Hesiod Theogany 907:”And Hephaestus, the famous Lame One, made Aglaea, youngest of the Graces, his buxom wife.”

Homer Odyssey 18.192: “With balm she first made fair her beautiful face, with balm ambrosial, such as that wherewith Cytherea, of the fair crown, anoints herself when she goes into the lovely dance of the Graces;”. The term in Greek ‘χρίεται’ is related to the Greek word ‘χρίω’, ‘touch the surface of a body slightly’ and is derived from Indo-European, ‘ghrēi-‘, ‘to smear over’. Obviously this is related to the term ‘annoint’.

Homer Odyssey 6.17: “hard by slept two hand-maidens, gifted with beauty by the Graces,…”

Homer Odyssey 8.364: “There the Graces bathed her and anointed her with [365] immortal oil, such as gleams upon the gods that are forever.”

Daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, — Graces, Charities in Greek ‘Χαριτες’ from Indo-European ‘kā-‘, ‘to like, wish, desire’:

  • Aglaia – Αγλαί̈ην, splendor from Indo-European ‘gel-2’, ‘bright’.
  • Euphrosyne – Εὐφροσύνην, cheerful from Indo-European ‘gwhren-‘, ‘to think’
  • Thalia – Θαλίην, the blooming one from Indo-European ‘dhal-‘, ‘to bloom’

There is also Charis, ‘Χαρις’, the wife of Hephaetus in the Illiad. But in the Odyssey the wife of Hephaetus is Aphrodite. Hesiod called the wife of Hephaetus Aglaia. It seems as though the concept of grace was one and then later tripled and that these various references reflect that fact. The explanation of the number three depends upon the fact that a ritual in the distant past needed to be repeated three times. In the Mycenaean culture there were three classes of people and each class had to be treated seperately in a ritual. The tripartate goddesses appear to result from the adoption of the goddesses from the Mycenaean culture.

Though the Graces are three in number there are many more qualities that contribute to a pleasant social event than three. The names of the goddesses identified with the graces help to describe what made up a pleasant social event. On the Florence 81948 (Vase) there are a number of goddesses listed which could be graces:

  • Eudaimonia — goodess of happiness)
  • Harmonia — goddess of harmony)
  • Paidia — goddess of play)
  • Eurynoe — the goddess of making a space for dancing
  • Pannychis — Night Festivity
  • Chrysothemis — goddess of golden custom (traditional festivities?)
  • Hygieia — goddess of good health
  • Pandaisia — goddess of festivity
  • Eutychia — the goddess of luck

Different Graces seem to have been recognized in different cities:

  • Athens
    • Auxo — Αὐξώ — goddess of growth
    • Hegemone — Ήγεμόνη — goddess of guidance
    • Peitho — Πειθώ — goddess of persuasion
  • Sparta
    • Cleta — Κλητα — goddess of summoning
    • Pasithea — Πασιθέα– goddess of the spreading spirit
  • Thebes
    • Pasithea — Πασιθέα– goddess of the spreading spirit
    • Cale — Καλη — goddess of invocation
    • Euphrosyne — Εὐφροσύνην — goddess of cheerfulness

A review of this list suggests a comparison with the Maenads. The maenads went to excess while the Graces focused on moderation. There seems to have been some connection at one time but they went their separate ways.

A Statue of the Three Graces a copy after Canova, Antonio, 1757-1822, sculptor
Three Graces

Ancient images:

Pictures:

Resources:


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The Three Graces in Ancient Greece

Questions and Answers

Question: Are they virgin goddess?

Answer: No. But no sexual liasons have been reported.

Question: So 3 graces could have companion and they aren’t virgin:is it correct? And about the name of other virgin goddess

Answer: With mortals a nature is discovered in the reality of the individual. After a person is born you discover their nature by observing what they can do. But a goddess is conceived because her nature is required. This requirement is realized by her parents. Now the quention becomes ‘What natures require virginity. Valid wisdom must be virgin hense Athena must be virgin. Maidenhood must be virgin, hense Artemis must be virgin. The virginity of Hestia is more obscure. It probably relates to the purity of fire. But she swore she would be a virgin. There are many goddesses too obscure to have their sexlife revealed. Some may be virgin. Their natures can be examined to determine the suitability of virginity. But examination of the over 3000 individual goddesses is beyond the scope of
this commentary.

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