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October 3, 2015

The Graces


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.

1st century fresco from the House of Apollo in Pompeii, now in the Naples Museum of Archeology

Parentage

In 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 Graces

The 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.
The members of the Graces differed from region to region. For instance, in some part of Greece people assigned three other deities to the Graces: Cleta (sound), Pasithea (shining), and Peitho (persuasion). Again, in Sparta, Thalia was disregarded as one of the Graces and was replaced by Cleta. As per legends Pasithea, was married to Hypnos (Roman equivalent: Somnus), the primeval god of sleep.

Presentation in Arts

Over 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.

Ceiling of the Ballroom of Compiègne Castle, Dance of the Graces Directed by Apollo by  the French artist Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1767 –1824)
Since the Graces were minor deities, not a single myth presented them independently. They always appeared as attendants of other gods or goddesses, most notably of 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.

Primavera (c. 1482) by the Italian Painter Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510)

Three Graces: Roman copy of Greek 2nd Century BC statue in the Borghese Collection at the Louvre

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces (1824) at (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium) by the French Artist Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)

The Three Graces (1856) by the British Painter William Edward Frost (1810–1877)

The Three Graces (1639) by the Flemish Painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The Three Graces (1835) by the British Painter William Etty (1787 –1849)

The Three Graces (1899) by the French Painter Edouard Bisson (1856 - 1939)

References

“Charities.” Wikipedia. 2015. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 Sep 2015
< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charites>.

  “Charities.” Greek-Gods.Info. 2015. Greek-Gods.Info. 4 Sep 2015
< http://www.greek-gods.info/ancient-greek-gods/charites/>.

 Khan, Farhad. An Encyclopedia of Classical Literature. Dhaka: Protik, 1996.

 “Graces.” Myths Encyclopedia. 2015. Advameg, Inc. 4 Sep 2015
< http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Go-Hi/Graces.html>.

 “Grace: Greek Mythology.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2015. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 4 Sep 2015
< http://global.britannica.com/topic/Grace-Greek-mythology>.

 “The Graces.” Greek Mythology. 2015. GreekMythology.com. 4 Sep 2015
< http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Graces/the_graces.html>.

 “The Gratiae.” Journeying to the Goddess. 2015. Journeying to the Goddess. 4 Sep 2015
< https://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/tag/euphrosyne/>.

 “The Charities.” La Audacia de Aquiles. 2015. Aquiles. 4 Sep 2015
< https://aquileana.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/greek-mythology-the-charites-the-three-graces/>.
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