In Roman mythology the Graces (Plural of Grace) are the trio of minor deities representing joy, charm, and beauty. Originally, however, the Graces were simply considered as the goddesses of fertility and fecundity, including vegetation and animal life. In Greek mythology they are known as the Charites (Plural of Charis). In some accounts, Charis was not merely the singular form of the Charities rather it was the name of a single member of this group of deities. The Graces are also called Gratiae (Plural of Gratia), Kharites (Plural of Kharis), and Charitae.
ParentageIn majority accounts, the Graces are the offspring of Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter; also called: Jove) and the nymph Eurynome. Some other myths however, associate a few other mothers such as, Hera (Roman equivalent: Juno), Eurydome, Eurymedousa, and Euanthe. In minority myths they were also considered the daughters of Dionysus (also called: Bacchus; Roman equivalent: Liber) and Aphrodite (Roman equivalent: Venus); or Helios (Roman equivalent: Sol) and Aegle, the Naiad or Okeanid nymph.
Different GracesThe exact number of the Graces varies in different accounts. Homer (c. 800 BC-c. 700 BC), for example tells about either single or infinite number of unnamed Graces. Hesiod (c.700 BC), on the other hand restricted their number in three with individual names. Eventually, like Hesiod, nearly all myths motioned three sisters, who were namely:
- Aglaia: she was the goddess of beauty, adornment, splendour, magnificence, and glory. In his Theogony, Hesiod (945) wrote that Aglaia was the youngest of the Graces and that she was the wife of Hephaestus (Roman equivalent: Vulcan). She was the mother of the four younger Graces named Good-Repute, Praise, Eloquence and Welcome. She was also named Kharis (the Grace) and Kale (Beauty). In Iliad (xviii. 382) instead of giving her a name Homer indirectly called her the wife of Hephaestus.
- Euphrosyne: She was the second of the three sisters. She was the goddess of joy, mirth and merriment. Her name derives from the Greek word euphrosynos, meaning "merriment". She was also called Euthymia. She was the companion, or in a different opinion, the wife of Acratus (Greek: Akratos), the god of unmixed wine and incontinence.
- Thalia: she was the eldest of all Graces. She was the goddess of festive celebrations and rich and luxurious banquets.
Presentation in ArtsOver the centuries, the presentation of the Graces had undergone significant transformations. In classical sculptures and mosaics they were presented clothed but in Hellenistic artworks they were presented either nude or wearing transparent clothing. They were sometimes crowned with myrtle and held sprigs of myrtle in their hands.
Venus (Greek equivalent: Aphrodite) and Cupid (Greek equivalent: Eros). Besides, they also appeared among the attendants of Apollo, Dionysus, and Hermes (Greek equivalent: Mercury). Together with the Nymphs and the Muses, they entertained the gods by dancing around in a circle by holding hands to Apollo's music.
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