TETIS
Greek: QetiV Transliteration: Thetis Translation: Creation
Surnames: Arguropeza
'AlosudnhV
Transliteration: Argyropeza
HalosydnÍs
Translation: Silver-Footed
Sea-Born
THETIS was a GODDESS OF THE SEA, one of the fifty NEREIDES and their unofficial leader. Like many sea gods she had the gift of prophesy and the power to change her shape at will.

Parents

NEREUS & DORIS (Theogony, Iliad, Homeric Hymns, Pindar, Alcaeus, Apollodorus, Argonautica, Metamorphoses, et al)

Offspring

AKHILLEUS (by Peleus) (Iliad, Odyssey, Alcaeus, Aegimius, Apollodorus, Metamorphoses, et al)

"To Nereus and to Doris ... there were born in the barren sea daughters greatly beautiful even among goddesses: Ploto and Eukrante and Amphitrite and Sao, Eudora and Thetis [and others]" -Theogony 240

"Thetis of the lovely hair, the sea's lady." -Iliad 20.207



P12.4 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Apulian Red Figure Pelike C5th BC
Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum 86.AE.611

Detail: Thetis and the Nereides, riding Hippokampoi,
Ketea and dolphins, deliver the armour of Akhilleus

"Thetis, the silver-footed, the daughter of the sea's ancient." -Iliad 1.556

“Ye hundred Sea-Maidens (Aequoreae Puellae) sired by Nereus, and you, Thetis, that have felt a mother’s grief, you should have placed your arms beneath his failing chin [a boy drowning in a shipwreck]: he could not have weighed heavy on your hands.” –Propertius 3.6

“Often does Alcyone [the sea-nesting kingfisher] deserted make lament for her wave-wandering, spray-drenched home, when savage Auster [Notos the South Wind] and envious Thetis have scattered her darlings and their shivering nests.” –Thebaid 9.360

"Before ships were, the waters lay in a slumberous calm, Thetis dared not foam nor the waves assault the clouds." –Silvae 3.2.1

"Argyropeza (silver-footed): She who has a silver foot. For 'peza' [is] the foot." -Suidas 'Argyropeza'


THETIS & HEPHAISTOS

"[Hephaistos to Kharis] There is a goddess [Thetis] we honour and respect in our house. She saved me when I suffered much at the time of my great fall through the will of my own brazen-faced mother, who wanted to hide me for being lame. Then my soul would have taken much suffering had not Eurynome and Thetis caught me and held me .. With them I worked nine years as a smith .. working there in the hollow of the cave, and the stream of Okeanos around us went on forever with its foam and its murmur. No other among the gods or among mortal men knew about us except Eurynome and Thetis. They knew since they saved me. Now she has come into our house; so I must by all means do everything to give recompense to lovely-haired Thetis for my life." -Iliad 18.369f

"[Hera to Zeus:] My son Hephaistos whom I bare .. I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service for the blessed gods." -Hymn to Pythian Apollo 3.319-320

"The cunning God-smith [Hephaistos] welcomed she [Thetis] within her mansion, when from heaven he fell. " -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.433

"Zeus threw [Hephaistos] from the sky. [He] landed on Lemnos, crippled in both legs, but saved by Thetis." -Apollodorus 1.19

“Eurynome was a daughter of Okeanos, whom Homer mentions in the Iliad, saying that along with Thetis she received Hephaistos ... If she [Eurynome] is a daughter of Okeanos, and lives with Thetis in the depth of the sea, the fish may be regarded as a kind of emblem of her.” -Pausanias 8.41.4-6

"Clever work of Hephaistos, Olympian ornaments, for the bride; necklace and earrings and armlets he [Nereus] brought and offered, all that the Lemnian craftsman had made for the Nereides with inimitable workmanship in the waves – there in the midst of the brine he shook his fiery anvil and tongs under the water, blowing the enclosed breath of the bellows with mimic winds, and when the furnace was kindled the fire roared in the deep unquenched." -Dionysiaca 43.400


P12.3 "Peleus wrestling Thetis"
Athenian Red Figure Kylix C5th BC
Munich, Antikensammlungen 2648

Detail: Akhilleus wrestles a shape-shifting Thetis (shown with a small small lion representing metamorphosis), while her Nereides sisters flee back to their father Nereus

P12.1 "Peleus wrestling Thetis"
Athenian Red Figure Volute Krater C5th BC
Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum 77.AE.11

Detail: Akhilleus wrestles Thetis under the direction of the centaur Kheiron, while the rest of the Nereides flee back to their father Nereus


THETIS & DIONYSOS

"[Lykourgos drove Dionysos' followers away], while Dionysos in terror dived into the salt surf, and Thetis took him to her bosom, frightened, with the strong shivers upon him at the man's blustering." -Iliad 6.135-137

"In her [Thetis'] bowers she sheltered Dionysos, chased by might of murderous Lykougos from the earth. " -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.433

"Lykourgos .. was the first to show hubris to Dionysos by expelling him. Dionysos fled to the sea and took shelter with Nereus' daughter Thetis." -Apollodorus 3.34

"When he [Dionysos] was pursued by Lykourgos and took refuge in the sea, Thetis gave him a kindly welcome, and he gave her the amphora [a golden urn], Hephaistos' handiwork. She gave it to her son [Akhilleus], so that when he died his bones might be put in it. The story is told by Stesichorus." -Greek Lyric III Stesichorus Frag 234 (from Scholiast on Iliad)

“[The Hyades] Pherecydes the Athenian says, are the nurses of Liber, seven in number, who earlier were nymphae called Dodonidae ... They are said to have been put to flight by Lycurgus and all except Ambrosia took refuge with Theits, as Asclepiades says.” –Hyginus Astronomica 2.21

“He [Dionysos] thought Kronion [Zeus] was fighting for Lykourgos [who attacked him and his troops of Bakkhantes], when he heard the thunderclaps rolling in the heavens. He took to his heels in fear and ran too fast for pursuit, until he plunged into the gray water of the Erythraian Sea.
But Thetis in the deeps embraced him with friendly hands, when he entered within the loud-resounding hall. Then she comforted him with friendly words, and said:
‘Tell me, Dionysos, why are your looks despondent? No army of earthborn Arabs has conquered you, no pursuinig mortal man, you fled from no human spear; but Hera, sister and consort of Zeus Kronides, has armed herself in heaven and fought on the side of Lykourgos – Hera and stubborn Ares and the brazen sky; Lykourgos the mighty was only a fourth. Often enough your father himself, the lord of heaven ruling on high, had to give way to Hera! You will have all the more to boast of, when one of the Blessed shall say – Hera consort and sister of mighty Zeus took arms herself against Dionysos umarmed!’
So speaking, the Nereis tried to console Bakkhos.” –Dionysiaca 20.350

“In the Erythraian Sea, the daughters of Nereus [Nereides] cherished Dionysos [driven into the sea by Lykourgos] at their table, in their halls deep down under the waves ...
So he remained in the hall deep down in the waves under the waters, and he lay sprawled among the seaweed in Thetis’ bosom.” –Dionysiaca 21.170

“She [Khalkomede a leader of the Bassarides in Dionysos' War against the Indians] would have thrown herself rolling headlong into the waves [to escape the pursuit of the Indian Morrheus], but Thetis gave her help, to please Dionysos. She changed her shape, and stood before Khalkomedeia in the form of a Bakkhante woman with comfortable words:
‘Courage Khalkomede! Fear not the bed of Morrheus. You have in me a lucky omen of your untouched maidenhead, bringing witness that no marriage shall come near your bed. I am Thetis, like you an enemy marriage. I love maidenhood, as Khalkomede herself ... Be astute, and save us! For if you contrive your own death, without learning what marriage is without a bridegroom, the wild Indian will destroy the whole company of Bassarides. No, you must delude him, and you will save from death your army, which is now in flight while Dionysos is under the lash [driven mad by the Erinys] … Have no fear about marriage. No bedfellow shall loose the firm knot of your maidenhood: I swear it by Dionysos, who has touched my board, I swear it by your thyrsus, and by Aphrodite of the sea.’
She ended her consolation; and then hid the girl in a cloud, that the guards might not see her, or some spy walking cunningly in the night with secret foot, or some bold goatherd womanmad, and drag the maiden in the evening to a wayside wedding.
The girl passed over the hills in her quickmoving step, until she silently passed into the woody uplands; nor did Thetis herself linger upon the shore, but she too returned to the weedy hall of her father Nereus.” –Dionysiaca 33.348

“The lovely young girl [the Bakkhante Khalkomede], a new bowfamed Amazon, took hand in the fight beside the front ranks in the plain [in the War of Dionysos against the Indians], clad in light robes and a shining tunic. For that is what wise Thetis told her to do, that she might save the whole host, so distressed, while Dionysos was being plagued [driven mad by Hera he had abandoned his army].” –Dionysiaca 34.155


THETIS & AIGAION

"You [Thetis] only among the immortals beat aside a shameful destruction from Kronos' son the dark-misted that time when all the other Olympians sought to bind him, Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene. Then you, goddess, went and set him free from his shackles, summoning in speed the creature of the hundred hands [Briareus] to tall Olympos." -Iliad 1.393-420f

"The Lightning-lord [Zeus] she [Thetis] once released from bonds. " -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.433

"Ion says in a dithyramb that Aigaion was summoned from the ocean by Thetis and taken up to protect Zeus, and that he was the son of Thalassa (Sea)." -Greek Lyric IV Ion of Chios Frag 741 (from Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes)

"What time she [Thetis] was sent to follow Aegaeon freed [Zeus] from his stubborn bonds and to count the hundred fetters of the god." -Achilleid 1.209

"[When Poseidon led the Sea-Gods into battle against Dionysos and his allies] Psamathe sorrowful on the beach beside the sea, watching the turmoil of seabattling Dionysos, uttered the dire trouble of her heart in terrified words: ‘O Lord Zeus! If thou hast gratitude for Thetis and the ready hands of Briareus, if thou hast not forgot Aigaion the protector of they laws, save us from Bakkhos in his madness! Let me never see Glaukos dead and Nereus a slave! Let not Thetis in floods of tears be servant to Lyaios, let me not see her a slave to Bromios, leaving the deep … ‘
She spoke her prayer, and Zeus on high heard her in heaven [and ended the battle].” –Dionysiaca 43.361


P12.2 "Peleus wrestling Thetis"
Athenian Red Figure Dinos C5th BC
Martin von Wagner Museum, University of W¸rzburg L 540

Detail: Akhilleus wrestles Thetis, while her Nereid sisters (Nao here shown) flee back to their father Nereus

P13.5 "Peleus wrestling Thetis"
Athenian Red Figure Calyx Krater C5th BC
Boston,  Museum of Fine Arts 1972.850

Detail: Akhilleus wrestles Thetis under the direction of the centaur Kheiron, while her Nereid sisters flee back to their father Nereus


THE MARRIAGE OF THETIS

"Thetis, to please Hera, avoided union with Zeus, at which he was enraged and swore that she should be the wife of a mortal." -Catalogues of Women 57, Cypria 4

"[Hera:] Akhilleus is the child of a goddess, one whom I myself nourished and brought up and gave her as a bride to her husband Peleus, one dear to the hearts of the immortals, for you all went, you gods, to the wedding, and you too [Apollon] feasted among them and held you lyre." -Iliad 24.59-63

"[Hera rebukes Apollon for slaying Akhilleus:] 'What deed of outrage, Phoibos, hast thou done this day, forgetful of that day whereon to godlike Peleus' spousals gathered all the Immortals? Yea, amidst the featers thou sangest how Thetis silver-footed left the sea's abysses to be Peleus' bride; and as thou harpedst all earth's children came to hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills, rivers, and all the deep-shadowed forests came. All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought a ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man, albeit thou with other Gods didst pour the nectar, praying that he might be the son by Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer hast thou forgotten ... how wilt thou meet the Nereis' eyes when she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods, who priased thee once, and loved as her own son?' -Quintus Smyrnaeus 3.96

"Now in their midst he [Nestor at the funeral games of Akhilleus] sang the gracious Queen of Nereids [Thetis], sang how she in willsomeness of beauty was of all the Sea-maids (Einalia) chief. Well-pleased she hearkened. Yet again he sang, singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight, which all the blest Immortals brought to pass by Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast when the swift Horai (Hours) brought in immortal hands meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds; sang how the silver tables were set forth in haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang how breathed Hephaistos purest flame of fire; sang how the Nymphai [Thriai] in golden chalices mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance twined by the Kharites' (Graces) feet; sang of the chant the Mousai raised, and how its spell enthralled all mountains, rivers, all the forest brood; how raptured was the infinite firmament, Kheiron's fair caverns, yea, the very Gods." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 4.128

"Against the wise Prometheus bitter-wroth the Sea-maids [Nereides] were, remembering how that Zeus, moved by his prophecies, unto Peleus gave Thetis to wife, a most unwilling bride." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 5.1 & 334

"And there [depicted on the shield of Akhilleus] were lordly Nereus' Daughters shown leading their sister [Thetis] up from the wide sea to her espousals with the warrior-king [Peleus]. And round her all the Immortals banqueted on Pelion's ridge far-stretching. All about lush dewy watermeads there were, bestarred with flowers innumerable, grassy groves, and springs with clear transparent water bright." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 5.73

“Yet a life free from care came neither to Peleus Aiakos’ son, nor to Kadmos that godlike king; though they of all men won, so men say, the highest bliss, who heard the Mousai in golden diadems chanting their songs upon the mountain and within the seven gates of Thebes, when one took for his bride Harmonia, the dark-eyed maid, the other glorious Thetis, daughter of wise Nereus.
And the gods shared their marriage feasts, and seated upon golden thrones beside them they saw the royal children of Kronos, and received from them their wedding-gifts: and by the grace of Zeus were from their former toils uplifted, and peace was in their hearts established …
And Peleus’ son, that one son whom the immortal Thetis in Phthia bore, gave up his life in the fore-front of war, to the sharp arrow’s point.” –Pindar Pythian 3 ep4-ant5

"For Nereus' daughter glorious in her fruit, he [Kheiron] set the marriage feast, and reared her peerless son." -Nemean Ode 3 ant 3

"And Thetis too the sea maid, he [Peleus] held struggling in his strong grasp." -Nemean Ode 3 ant2

"The fate destined by Zeus he [Peleus] made his own: devouring flames, and the sharp claws of fearless lions, and tearing teeth safely endured [as Thetis metamorphosed into varoius shapes], his Nereis bride he [Peleus] won from her high seat, and saw, round him enthroned, the gods of sky and sea proffer their gifts, foretelling the kingdom he and his race should rule." -Nemean 4 str8

“Yet for these men [Peleus & Telamon] the Mousai’s peerless choir glad welcome sang on Pelion [at Peleus’ marriage to Thetis], and with them Apollon’s seven-stringed lyre and golden quill led many a lovely strain. To Zeus a prelude, then sang they first divine Thetis, and Peleus.” –Pindar Nemean 5 str2-ant2

“Then from heaven beholding the king of the high gods, cloud-gathering Zeus, with nodding brow forthwith ordained a sea-nymphe of the golden-spindled Nereides his bride would be, and to accept this kinship, ‘listed Poseidon’s favour.” -Pindar Nemean 5 ep2-str3

"When for marriage with Thetis there arose strife 'twixt Zeus and glorious Poseidon when each of the two gods would have her to be his lovely bride, for passion filled their hearts. But for them did the wisdom of the immortal gods not grant this union should come to pass, when to their ears came the prophetic oracle. For in their midst wise-counselled Themis told that it was ruled of fate that the sea-goddess should bring forth a son, of strength mightier than his father, whose hand should launch a shaft more powerful than the bolt of thunder or the fearsome trident, if she wed with Zeus or with his brothers. 'Leave,' said she, 'From this design, but with a mortal let her bed be blessed, and let her see her son dying in war. Like Ares shall he be in strength of arm and in fleetness of foot like to the lightning flash. In my word you would hear, grant that her marriage be for an honour given of heaven to Peleus, the son of Aiakos, who, so they tell, is of all men most righteous, dwelling upon Iolkos' plain.And to the immortal cave of Kheiron let your bidding speedily take its way, nor let the ballot-leaves of strife be set amidst as twice by Nereus' daughter. But on the full-moon's eve let her for this hero unloose the lovely girdle of her pure maidenhood.' Such words the goddess spoke to the children of Kronos; and they nodded giving their assent with immortal brows. Nor was the fruit of these words cast away. For the two gods joined in their honours given to the wedding of maid Thetis." -Isthmian 8 str3-str5

“The delicate maiden [Thetis] whom the noble son of Aiakos [Peleus], inviting all the blessed gods to the wedding, married, taking her from the halls of Nereus to the home of Kherronos [Khiron]; he loosened the pure maiden's girdle, and the love of Peleus and the best of Nereus' daughters flourished; and within the year she bore a son [Akhilleus], the finest of demigods.” –Greek Lyric I Alcaeus Frag 42

”That is why Melanippides says that Thetis was pregnant by Zeus when she was given in marriage to Peleus because of the remarks of Prometheus or Themis [that she would bear a son greater than his father].” –Greek Lyric V Melanippides Frag 765 (from Scholiast on Homer’s Iliad)

"Thetis used to throw the children she had by Peleus into a cauldron of water, because she wished to learn whether they were mortal .. after many had perished Peleus was annoyed and prevented her from throwing Akhilleus into the cauldron." -Aegimius 2

"Io: By whom shall Zeus be stripped of power?
Prometheus: By his own foolish purposes.
Io: How will it happen? Tell me, if it does no harm.
Prometheus: He plans a union that will turn to his undoing.
Io: With mortal or immortal? Tell me, if you may.
Prometheus: Why ask with whom? That is a thing I may not tell.
Io: Then is it she who will unseat him from his throne?
Prometheus: She is to bear a son more powerful than his father." -Prometheus Bound 767


"Next he [Peleus] married Nereus' daughter Thetis, over whom Zeus and Poseidon had been rivals. But when Themis had predicted that the son of Thetis would be stronger than his father, they bowed out. Some say that, when Zeus was eager to have sex with Thetis, Prometheus told him that his son by her would take over dominion of the sky. Others say that Thetis was unwilling to have sex with Zeus because she had been reared by Hera, and that Zeus in fury wanted to marry her off to a mortal. At any rate, Kheiron warned Peleus to grab Thetis and hold on while she changed her form; so he watched for his chance and carried her off, and, although she changed into fire and then water and then a wild animal, he did not release her until he saw that she had returned to her original shape. They were married on Pelion and the gods celebrated the marriage with hymns and a banquet." -Apollodorus 3.168-170

“[Depicted on the chest of Cypselus at Olympia] There is also a figure of Thetis as a maid; Peleus is taking hold of her, and from the hand of Thetis a snake is darting at Peleus.” –Pausanias 5.18.5

"When he [Zeus] came to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, he brought these wings [those of the Titan-goddess Arke] as a gift for Thetis [to attach to the feet of her destined son]. Peleus, it is said, received on the occasion of his marriage a sword from Hephaistos, from Aphrodite a piece of jewelry on which was engraved an Eros (Love), from Poseidon some horses, Xanthos and Balios, from Hera a 'chlamyde', from Athena a flute, from Nereus a basket of the salt called 'divine; and which has an irresistable virtue for the appetite, the taste of food and their digestion, whence the expression 'she poured the divine salt." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk6 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

“A prediction about Thetis, the Nereid, was that her son would be greater than his father. Since no one but Prometheus knew this, and Jove wished to lie with her, Prometheus promised Jove [Zeus] that he would give him timely warning if he would free him from his chains. And so when the promise was given he advised Jove [Zeus] not to lie with Thetis, for if one greater than he were born he might drive Jove from his kingdom, as he himself had done to Saturn [Kronos]. And so Thetis was given in marriage to Peleus, son of Aeacus, and Hercules was sent to kill the eagle which was eating out Prometheus’ heart. When it was killed, Prometheus after thirty thousand years was freed from Mount Caucasus.” –Hyginus Fabulae 54

“Jove [Zeus] is said to have invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis all the gods except Eris, or Discord. When she came later and was not admitted to the banquet, she threw an apple through the door, saying that the fairest should take it. Juno [Hera], Venus [Aphrodite], and Minerva [Athene] claimed the beauty prize for themselves.” –Hyginus Fabulae 92

“Minos is said to have drawn a gold ring from his finger and cast it into the sea. He bade Theseus bring it back, if he wanted him to believe he was a son of Neptunus … Theseus, without any invoking of his father or obligation of an oath, cast himself into the sea. And at once a great swarm of dolphins, tumbling forward over the sea, led him through gently swelling waves to the Nereides. From them he brought back the ring of Minos and a crown, bright with many gems, from Thetis, which she had received at her wedding as a gift from Venus [Aphrodite].” –Hyginus Astronomica 2.5

“The following reason for the release of Prometheus has been handed down. When Jupiter [Zeus], moved by the beauty of Thetis, sought her in marriage, he couldn’t win the consent of the timid maiden, but none the less kept planning to bring it about. At that time the Parcae were said to have prophesied what the natural order of events should be. They said that the son of Thetis’ husband, whoever he might be, would be more famous than his father. Prometheus heard this as he kept watch, not from inclination but from necessity, and reported it to Jove. He, fearing that what he had done to his father Saturnus [Kronos] in a similar situation, would happened to him, namely, that he would be robbed of his power, gave up by necessity his desire to wed Thetis, and out of gratitude to Prometheus thanked him and freed him from his chains.” –Hyginus Astromomica 2.15

"Peleus had the glory of a goddess wife [Thetis] and pride in her great father [Nereus] just as strong as in his grandfather ; for he, of course was not alone a grandson of great Jove [Zeus], but won alone a bride from heaven above. Old Proteus once had said to Thetis, 'Bear a child, fair goddess of the waves. For you shall be the mother of a youth whose deeds in his brave years of manhood shall surpass his father's and he'll win a greater name. ' Therefore, for fear the world might ever have a greater than himself, Jove [Zeus] shunned the bed of Thetis, fair sea-goddess, though his heart was fired with no cool flame, and in his place as lover bade his grandson Aeacides [Peleus] take in his embrace the virgin of the waves. There is a curving bay in Haemoniae [Thessaly], shaped like a sickle; two long arms run out and were the water deeper there would be a harbour. Smooth across the shallow sand the sea extends; the shore is firm; it holds no footprints, slows no passage, slopes unlined by seaweed. Myrtles grow near by, a grove of double-coloured berries. In their midst there lies a grotto, formed maybe by art, maybe by nature, rather though by art, here Thetis used to come, naked, astride her bridled dolphin. There, as she lay lapped in sleep, Peleus surprised her, winding his two strong arms around her neck. And had she not resorted to her arts and changed her shape so often, he'd have gained the end he dared. But first she was a bird - that bird he held; and then a sturdy tree - that tree he fastened on; her third shape was a stripy tigress - Aeacides [Peleus], terrified, released his hold on her and let her go. He prayed then to the Di Pelagi (Sea-gods), offering wine poured on the water, smoke of incense, flesh of sheep, till Carpathius [Proteus] from his briny deep said, 'Aeacides [Peleus], you shall gain the bride you seek if, while she's sleeping in her rocky cave, you catch her off her guard and truss her tight with ropes that won't give way and, though she takes a hundred spurious shapes don't be deceived but grapple it, whatever it is until she forms again the shape she had before.' So Proteus spoke and sank into the sea, his wavelets washing over his last words. Titan [Helios the Sun] was setting and his chariot sloped to the western waves, when the fair Nereis [Thetis] sought the grotto and resumed her usual couch. Peleus had barely touched her lovely limbs before from shape to shape she changed, until she felt her body trussed; her arms pinioned apart. And then at last, sighing, 'with some god's help,' she said, 'you've won.' And there revealed stood - Thetis. Self-confessed, he held her, hopes triumphant, to his side and filled with great Achilles his fair bride." -Metamorphoses 11.217

"Peleus [when his flocks were ravaged by a gigantic wolf sent by the Nereis Psamathe]: ’ .. To the Numen Pelagi (Sea-goddess) now I needs must pray!' ... Peleus addressed his prayers to Psamathe, the wave-blue Nympha, that she would end her wrath and bring her succour. Her no prayer of his could turn, but Thetis for her husband's sake pleaded and won her pardon." -Metamorphoses 11.397

“Argos adds paintings [to the hull of the ship Argo] of varied grace. One one side Thetis, whom a god had hoped to win, is being borne upon the back of a Tyrrhene fish to the bridal chamber of Peleus; the dolphin is speeding over the sea; she herself is sitting with her veil drawn down over her eyes, and is sorrowing that Achilles shall not be born greater than Jupiter [Zeus]. Panope and her sister Doto and Galatea with bare shoulders, revelling in the waves, escort her towards the caverns.” –Valerius Flaccus 1.130

“Verily that quarrel [of the goddesses Hera, Athene and Aphrodite] arose in thy [Akhilleus’] own glades, at a gathering of the gods, when pleasant Pelion made marriage feast for Peleus [and Thetis], and thou [Akhilleus] even then wert promised to our [the Greeks] armament.” –Achilleid 2.55

“Peleus [was led] to Thessalian Tempe, when Chiron high on his horse’s body looked forth and beheld Thetis draw nigh to the Haemonian strand [and advised him how to capture her as his bride].” –Silvae 1.2.215

“Among the high-peaked hills of the Haimonians, the marriage song of Peleus [and Thetis] was being sung while, at the bidding of Zeus, Ganymede poured the wine. And all the race of gods hasted to do honour to the white-armed bride [Thetis], own sister of Amphitrite: Zeus from Olympos and Poseidon from the sea. Out of the land of Melisseus, from fragrant Helikon, Apollon came leading the clear-voiced choir of the Mousai. On either side, fluttering with golden locks, the unshorn cluster of his hair was buffeted by the west wind. And after him followed Hera, sister of Zeus; nor did the queen of harmony herself, even Aphrodite, loiter in coming to the groves of the Kentauros [Kheiron]. Came also Peitho (Persuasion), having fashioned a bridal wreath, carrying the quiver of archer Eros. And Athene put off her mighty helmet from her brow and followed to the marriage, albeit of marriage she was untaught. Nor did Leto’s daughter Artemis, sister of Apollon, disdain to come, goddess of the wilds though she was. And iron Ares, even as, helmetless nor lifting warlike spear, he comes into the house of Hephaistos, in such wise without breastplate and without whetted sword danced smilingly. But Eris (Strife) did Kheiron leave unhonoured: Kheiron did not regard her and Peleus heeded her not …
And Eris (Strife) overcome by the pangs of angry jealousy, wandered in search of a way to disturb the banquet of the gods ...
And now she bethought her of the golden apples of the Hesperides. Thence Eris took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple, and devised the scheme of signal woes. Whirling her arm she hurled into the banquet the primal seed of turmoil and disturbed the choir of goddesses. Hera, glorying to be the spouse and to share the bed of Zeus, rose up amazed, and would fain have seized it. And Kypris [Aphrodite], as being more excellent than all, desired to have the apple, for that it is the treasure of the Erotes (Loves). But Hera would not give it up and Athena would not yield." -Colluthus 14

“I am Thetis, like you an enemy marriage. I love maidenhood ... yet Father Zeus drove me from heaven and would have dragged me into marriage, but that old Prometheus stopt his desires, by prophesying that I should bear a son stronger than Kronion [Zeus]; he wished that Thetis’ boy should not some time overpower his father and drive out Kronides as high Zeus drove out Kronos.” –Dionysiaca 33.355


THETIS, THE NEREIDES & THE ARGONAUTS

"The ship [Argo] then came successively to Kharybdis, Skylla, and the wandering rocks called Planktai, beyond which a mighty flame and smoke were seen rising. But Hera sent for Thetis and the Nereides, who escorted the ship through these hazards." -Apollodorus 1.136

"[Hera to Iris:] 'Dear Iris ... speed away on your light wings and ask Thetis to come here to me out of the salt sea depths. I need her ..'
Iris, spreading her light pinions, swooped down from Olympos and cleft the air. Plunging first into the Aigaion Sea where Nereus lives, she approached Thetis, delivered the message from Hera, and urged her to go to the goddess .. Thetis, leaving Nereus and her sisters in the sea, reached Olympos and presented herself to Hera. The goddess made her take a seat beside her and disclosed her mind. 'Listen, Lady Thetis,' she said. 'I was anxious to have a word with you. You know the strength of my regard for the noble son of Aison and the others who supported him in his ordeal .. It still remains for them to pass the great cliff of Skylla and the gurgling whirlpool of Kharybdis.
'Now you will not have forgotten that I brought you up myself and loved you more than any other Lady of the Sea because you rejected the amorous advances of my consort Zeus. He, of course, has made a habit of such practices and sleeps with goddesses and girls alike. But you were frightened and out of your regard for me you would not let him have his will. In return for which he took a solemn oath that you should never be the bride of an immortal god. Yet in spite of your refusal he did not cease to keep his eye on you, till the day when the venerable Themis made him understand that you were destined to bear a son who would be greater than his father. When he heard this, Zeus gave you up though he still desired you. He wished to keep his power forever and was terrified at the thought that he might meet his match and be supplanted as the King of Heaven. Then, in the hope of making you a happy bride and mother, I chose Peleus, the noblest man alive, to be your husband; I invited all the gods and goddesses to the wedding-feast; and I carried the bridal torch myself, in return for the goodwill and deference you had shown me. And there is something else that I must tell you, a prophecy concerning your son Akhilleus, who is now with Kheiron the Kentauros and is fed by water-nymphs though he should be at you breast. When he comes to the Elysian Fields, it has been arranged that he shall marry Medea the daughter of Aeetes; so you, as her future mother-in-law, should be ready to help her now. Help Peleus too. Why are you still so angry with him? He was very foolish; but even the gods are sometimes visited by Ate.'
'It is for you to see that they [the Argonauts] come safely home. The only things I fear are the rocks and those tremendous waves. I count on you and your sisters to deal with these. And do not let [them] .. fall into Kharybdis .. [or] go too near the hateful den of Ausonian Skylla .. What you must do is to guide the ship that they escape disaster, if only by a hair's breadth.'
Thetis replied: 'If the fury of the flames and the storm winds is indeed to be abated, I am confident. Given a fresh breeze from the west, I shall bring Argo safely through, whatever seas she may encounter. But time presses and I have a long way to go, first to my sisters to enlist their help, then to the place where the ship is moored to induce the men to sail at dawn if they wish to reach their homes.'
With that, Thetis dropped from the sky and plunged into the turmoil of the dark blue sea. There she called to all her sister Nereides to help her. They heard her call, and when they had assembled Thetis told them what Hera wished and sent them speeding off to the Ausonian Sea. She herself, quick as the twinkle of an eye or the sun's rays when he springs from the world's rim, sped through the water to the beach of Aia on the Tyrrhenian coast. She found the young lords by their ship, passing the time with quoits and archery. Drawing near, she touched the hand of the lord Peleus, who was her husband. The rest saw nothing. She appeared to him only and to him she said: 'You and your friends have sat here long enough. In the morning you must cast off the hawsers of you gallant ship in obedience to Hera. She is your friend and has arranged for the Nereides to foregather quickly and bring Argo safely through the Wandering Rocks, as they are called, that being the way you must follow. But when you see me coming with the rest do not point me out to anyone. Keep my appearance to yourself, or you will make me angrier that you did when you treated me in such a brutal fashion.' And with that she vanished into the depths of the sea.
Her husband felt a pang of remorse. He had never set eyes on her since the night when in a rage she had left her bridal bed. They had quarrelled about the illustrous Akhilleus. He was a baby then, and in the middle of the night she used to surround her mortal child with fire and every day anoint his tender flesh with ambrosia, to make him immortal and save him from the horrors of old age. One night Peleus, leaping out of bed, saw his boy gasping in the flames and gave a terrible cry. It was a foolish thing to do. Thetis heard, and snatching up the child threw him screaming on the floor. Then, passing quickly out of the house, light as a dream and insubstantial as the air, she plunged intothe sea. She was mortally offended and she never returned.
The Argonauts sailed on in gloom .. great seas were booming on the Wandering Rocks .. The Nereides swimming in from all directions, met them here, and Lady Thetis coming up astern laid her hand on the blade of the steering-oar to guide them through the Wandering Rocks. While she played the steersman's part, nymph after nymph kept leaping from the sea and swimming round Argo, like a school of dolphins gambolling round a moving ship in sunny weather, much to the entertainment of the crew as they see them darting up, now aft, now ahead, and now abeam. But just as they were about to strike the Rocks, the Sea-nymphs, holding their skirts up over their white knees, began to run along on top of the reefs and breaking waves following each other at intervals on either side of the ship. Argo, caught in the current, was tossed to right and left. Angry seas rose up all round her and crashed down on the Rocks which at one moment soared into the air like peaks, and at the next, sticking fast at the bottom of the sea, were submerged by the raging waters. But the Nereides, passing the ship from hand to hand and side to side, kept her scudding through the air on top of the waves. It was like that game that young girls play beside a sandy beach, when they roll their skirts up to their waists on either side and toss a ball round to one another, throwing it high in the air so that it never touches the ground. Thus, though the water swirled and seethed around them, these sea-nymphs kept Argo from the Rocks ... The Nereides worked hard to heave Argo clear of the resounding rocks and it took then as long a time as daylight lingers in an evening of spring." -Argonautica 4.757-967

“Next in joy they [the Argonauts preparing to depart on their voyage] pile altars; chiefly unto thee, lord of the waters [Poseidon], is reverence paid, unto thee, unto Zephyros (the West Wind) and unto Glaucus upon the shore Ancaeus sacrifices an ox decked with dark blue fillets, unto Thetis a heifer.” –Valerius Flaccus 1.188

“The vessel [the Argo] stands high out of calm waters, and Thetis and her kinsman Nereus with his strong arms support it from the bottom of the sea.” –Valerius Flaccus 1.655


THE BEAUTY CONTEST OF THETIS & MEDEIA

Thetis and Medeia engaged in a beauty contests when they were both living with their husbands Peleus and Jason in Iolkos, Thessalia.

"He [Hephaestion] reports that Athenodoros of Eretria, in the eighth book of his commentaries, says that Thetis and Medea had a dispute in Thessalia as to which was the most beautiful; their judge was Idomeneus, who gave the victory to Thetis; Medea in anger said that the Kretans were always liars and in revenge she made the curse that he would never speak the truth, just as he had lied in his judgement; it is from that, he says, that Kretans pass as liars. Athenodoros cites as author of this story Antiokhos in his second book of Legends of the town." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk5 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)


P13.6 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Athenian Red Figure Kylix C5th BC
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum 96

Detail: Thetis, riding on the back of Hippokampos, delivers armour to her son Akhilleus

P12.8 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Athenian Red Figure Kylix C5th BC
London, British Museum E 130

Detail: Thetis, riding on the back of Ketos or Sea-Monster, delivers armour to her son Akhilleus


THETIS & THE YOUNG AKHILLEUS

"When Thetis had a baby [Akhilleus] by Peleus, and wished to make it immortal, without telling Peleus she hid the child in the fire at night to destroy its paternally derived mortal qualities, and during the day she rubbed it with ambrosia. But Peleus spied on her and when he saw the child convulsed in the fire, he shouted out. So Thetis prevented from carrying out her plan, deserted her infant son and went off to join the Nereides." -Apollodorus 3.1171

“Out of seven sons [of Thetis] consumed in the flame [as she tested each for immortality] alone [Akhilleus] escaping the fiery ashes.” –Lycophron 178

"Thetis burned in a secret place the children she had by Peleus; six were born; when she had Akhilleus, Peleus noticed and tore him from the flames with only a burnt foot and confided him to Kheiron. The latter exhumed the body of the Gigante Damysos who was buried at Pallene - Damysos was the fastest of all the Gigantes - removed the 'astragale' and incorporated it into Akhilleus' foot using 'ingredients'.  This 'astragale' fell when Akhilleus was pursued by Apollon and it was thus that Akhilleus, fallen, was killed." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk6 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

"It is said [in an alternate story, to the one given above] ... that he [Akhilleus] was called Podarkes (Swift-Footed) by the Poet, because, it is said, Thetis gave the newborn child the wings of Arke and Podarkes means that his feet had the wings of Arke. And Arke was the daughter of Thaumas ... [and ally of] the Titanes. After the victory Zeus removed her wings before throwing her into Tartaros and, when he came to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, he brought these wings as a gift for Thetis." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk6 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

"Akhilleus, because he was saved from the fire that his mother had lit to burn him, was called 'saved from fire' [Pyrrhos] and it is because one of his lips was burned that he was called Akhilleus by his father." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk7 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

"Achilles’ Nereia mother [Thetis] who foreknew the death that he would die, disguised her son in women’s clothes, and all the world was tricked." -Metamorphoses 13.162

"Whom else [but Akhilleus] did a Nereis [Thetis] take be stealth through the Stygian waters and make his fair limbs impenetrable to steel?” –Achilleid 1.478

“Thetis – ah! never vain are a parent’s auguries! – started with terror beneath the glassy flood at the Idaean oars [the ship of Paris returning to Troy with his stolen bride Helene]. Without delay she sprang forth from her watery bower, accompanied by her train of sisters [the Nereides]: the narrowing shores of Phrixus [the Hellespontos] swarm, and the straitened sea has not room for its mistresses.
As soon as she had shaken the brine from off her, and entered the air of heaven: ‘There is danger to me,’ said she, ‘in yonder fleet, and threat of deadly harm; I recognise the truth of Proteus’ [the prophetic sea-god’s] warnings. Lo! Bellona [Enyo] brings from the vessel amid uplifted torches a new daughter-in-law [Helene] to Priam; already I see the Ionian and Aegean seas pressed by a thousand keels; nor does it suffice that all the country of the Grecians conspires with the proud sons of Atreus, soon will my Achilles be sought for by land and sea, ay, and himself will wish to follow them. Why indeed did I suffer Pelion and the stern master’s cave to cradle his infant years [Akhilleus was left with Kheiron to raise]? There, if I mistake not, he plays, the rogue, at the battle of the Lapithai, and already takes his measure with this father’s spear. O sorrow! O fears that came too late to a mother’s heart! Could I not, unhappy that I am, when first the timber of Rhoeteum was launched upon my flood [by Paris], have raised a mighty sea and pursued with a tempest on the deep the adulterous robber’s sails and led on all my sisters against him? Even now – but ‘tis too late, the outrage hath been wrought in full. Yet will I go, and clinging to the gods of ocean and the right hand of second Jove [Neptunus-Poseidon] – nought else remains – entreat him in piteous supplications by the years of Tethys and his aged sire for one single storm.’ She spoke, and opportunely beheld the mighty monarch, he was coming from Oceanus his host, gladdened by the banquet, and his countenance suffused with the nectar of the deep: wherefore the winds and tempest are silent and with tranquil song proceed the Tritones who bear his armour and the rock-like Cete (Sea-Monsters) and the Tyrrhenian herds [seals], and gambol around and blow him, saluting their king; he towers on high above the peaceful waves, urging his team [of Hippokampoi] with his three-pronged spear: frontwise they run at furious speed amid showers of foam, behind they swim and blot out their footprints with their tails: - when Thetis: ‘O sire and ruler of the mighty deep, seest thou to what uses thou hast made a way o’er the hapless ocean? The crimes of the nations pass by with unmolested sails, since the Pagasaean bark broke through the sanctions of the waters and profaned their hallowed majesty on Jason’s quest of plunder. Lo! freighted another wicked theft, the spoils of hospitality, sails the daring arbiter of unjust Ida [Paris], destined to cause what sorrow, alas! to heaven and earth, and what to me! Is it thus we requite the joy of the Phrygian triumph [of Aphrodite in the contest of the goddesses], is this the way of Venus [Aphrodite], is this her gift to her dear ward? These ships at least – no demigods nor our own Theseus do they carry home – o’erwhelm, if thou still hast any regard for the waters, or give the sea into my power; no cruelty do I purpose; suffer me to fear for my own son. Grant me to drive away my sorrow, nor let it be thy pleasure that out of all the seas I find a home in but a single coast and the rocks of an Ilian tomb [haunting the tomb at Troy of her dead son].’
With torn cheeks she made her prayer, and with bare bosom would fain hinder the cerulean steeds. But the ruler of the seas [Poseidon] invites her into his chariot and soothes her thus with friendly words: ‘Seek not in vain, Thetis, to sink the Dardanian [Trojan] fleet: the fates forbid it, ‘tis the sure ordinance of heaven that Europe and Asia should join in bloody conflict, and Jupiter [Zeus] hath issued his decree of war and appointed years of dreary carnage. What prowess of thy son in the Sigean dust, what vast funeral trains of Phyrgian matrons shalt thou victoriously behold, when thy Aeacides [her son Akhilleus] shall flood the Trojan fields with streaming blood, and anon forbid the choked river to flow and check his chariot’s speed with Hector’s corpse and mightily o’erthrow my walls, my useless toil! Cease now to complain of Peleus and thy inferior wedlock: thy child shall be deemed begotten of Jove [Zeus]; nor shalt thou suffer unavenged, but shalt use thy kindred seas: I will grant thee to raise the billows, when the Danaans [Greeks] return and Caphereus shows forth his nightly signals and we search together for terrible Ulysses.’
He spoke; but she, downcast at the stern refusal, for but now she was preparing to stir up the waters and make war upon the Ilian [Trojan] craft, devised in her mind another plan, and sadly turned her strokes toward the Haemonian land [Greece]. Thrice stove she with her arms, thrice spurned the clear water with her feet, and the Thessalian waves are washing on her snow-white ankles. The mountains rejoice, the marriage-bowers fling open their recesses, and [the river] Spercheus in wide, abundant stream flows to meet the goddess and laps her footsteps with his fresh water. She delights not in the scene, but wearies her mind with schemes essayed, and taught cunning by her devoted love seeks out the aged Chiron. His lofty home bores deep into the mountain, beneath the long, overarching vault of Pelion; part had been hollowed out by toil, part worn away by its own age. Yet the images and couches of the gods are shown, and the places that each had sanctified by his reclining and his sacred presence [at the marriage-feast of Peleus and Thetis]; within are the Centaurus’ wide and lofty stalls ...
On the threshold’s edge he awaited his return from hunting, and was urging the laying of the feast and brightening his abode with lavish fire: when far off the Nereis was seen climbing upward from the shore; he burst forth from the forests – joy speeds his going – and the well-known hoof-beat of the sage rang on the now unwonted plain. Then bowing down his horse’s shoulders he leads her with courtly hand within his humble dwelling and warns her of the cave.
Long time has Thetis been scanning every corner with silent gaze: then, impatient of delay, she cries: ‘Tell me, Chiron, where is my darling? Why spends the boy any time apart from thee? Is it not with reason that my sleep is troubled, and terrible portents from the gods and fearful panics – would they were false! – afflict his mother’s heart? For now I behold swords that threaten to pierce my womb, now my arms are bruised with lamentation, now savage beasts assail my breasts; often – ah, horror! – I seem to take my son down to the void of Tartarus, and dip him a second time in the springs of Styx. The Carpathian seer [Proteus of the Carpathian Sea] bids me banish these terrors by the ordinance of a magic rite, and purify the lad in secret waters beyond the bound of heaven’s vault, where is the farthest shore of Oceanus and father Pontus is warmed by the ingliding stars. There awful sacrifices and gifts to gods unknown – but ‘tis long to recount all, and I am forbidden; give him to me rather.’ Thus spoke his mother in lying speech – nor would he have given him up, had she dared to confess to the old man the soft raiment and dishonourable garb. Then he replies: ‘Take him, I pray, O best of parents, take him, and assuage the gods with humble entreaty. For thy hopes are pitched too high, and envy needs much appeasing. I add not to thy fears, but will confess the truth: some swift and violent deed – the forebodings of a sire deceive me not – is preparing, far beyond his tender years. Formerly he was wont to endure my anger, and listen eagerly to my commands nor wander far from my cave: now Ossa cannot contain him, nor mighty Pelion and all the snows of Thessalia. Even the Centauri often complain to me of plundered homes and herds stolen before their eyes, and that they themselves are driven from field and river; they devise violence and fraud, and utter angry threats. Once when the Thessalian pine bore hither the princes of Argo, I saw the young Alcides [Herakles] and Theseus – but I say no more.’ Cold pallor seized the daughter of Nereus: lo! he [Akhilleus] has come … He has stricken a lioness lately delivered and had left her in the empty lair, but had brought her cubs and was making them show their claws. Yet when he sees his mother on the well-known threshold, away he throws them, catches her up and binds her in his longing arms, already violent in his embrace and equal to her in height. Patroclus follows him, bound to him even then by a strong affection …
Straightway with rapid bound he hies him to the nearest river, and freshens in its waters his steaming face and hair … The old man [Kheiron] marvels as he adorns him, caressing how his breast, and now his strong shoulders: her very joy pierces his mother’s heart. Then Chiron prays her to taste the banquet and the gifts of Bacchus [Dionysos], and contriving various amusements for her beguiling at last brings forth the lyre and moves the care-consoling strings, and trying the chords lightly with his finger gives them to the boy. Gladly he sings of the mighty causes of noble deeds … lastly [he sung] of his mother’s marriage-feast and Pelion trodden by the gods. Then Thetis relaxed her anxious countenance and smiled. Night draws them on to slumber: the huge Centaurus lays him down on a stony couch, and Achilles lovingly twines his arms about his shoulders – though his faithful parent is there – and prefers the wonted breast.
But Thetis, standing by night upon the sea-echoing rocks, this way and that divides her purpose, and ponders in what hiding-place she will set her son, in what country she shall choose to conceal him … Of late from the unwarlike palace of Lycomedes had she heard the sound of maiden bands and the echo of their sport along the shore, what time she was sent to follow Aegaeon freed [Zeus] from his stubborn bonds and to count the hundred fetters of the god. This land finds favour, and seems safest to the timid mother …
One more care abides in her mind and troubles the sad goddess, whether she shall carry her son in her own bosom o’er the eaves, or use great Triton’s aid, whether she shall summon the swift Venti [Anemoi the winds] to help her, of the Thaumantian [Iris the rainbow] that is wont to drink the main. Then she calls out from the waves and bridles with a sharp-edged shell her team of dolphins twain, which Tethys, mighty queen, had nourished for her in an echoing vale beneath the sea; - none throughout all Neptunus’ [Poseidon’s] watery realm had such renown for their sea-green beauty, nor greater speed of swimming, nor more of human sense; - these she halts in the deep shore-water, lest they take harm from the touch of naked earth. Then in her own arms she carries Achilles, his body utterly relaxed in the boy’s slumber, from the rocks of the Haemonian cave down to the placid waters and the beach that she had bidden be silent; Cynthia [Selene the Moon] lights her way and shines out her full orb. Chiron escorts the goddess, and careless of the sea entreats her speedy return, and hides his moistened eyes and high upon his horse’s body gazes out towards them as suddenly they are whirled away, and now – and now are lost to view, where for a short while the foamy marks of their going gleam white and the wake dies away into the watery main. Him destined never more to return to Thessalian Tempe now mournful Pholoe bewails, now cloudy Othrys, and Spercheos with diminished flood and the silent grotto of the sage; the Fauni [Satyroi] listen for his boyish songs in vain, and the Nymphae bemoan their long-hoped for nuptials.
Now day o’erwhelms the stars, and from the low and level main Titan [Helios the Sun] wheels heavenward his dripping steeds, and down from the expanse of air falls the sea that the chariot bore up; but long since had the mother traversed the waves and gained the Scyrian shores, and the weary dolphins had been loosed from their mistress’ yoke: when the boy’s sleep was stirred, and his opening eyes grew conscious of the inpouring day. In amaze at the light that greets him he asks, where is he, what are these waves, where is Pelion? All he beholds is different and unknown, and he hesitates to recognise his mother. Quickly she caresses him and soothes his fear: ‘If, dear lad, a kindly lot had brought me the wedlock that it offered, in the fields of heaven should I be holding thee, a glorious star, in my embrace, nor a celestial mother should I fear the lowly Parcae [Moirai, fates] or the destinies of earth. But now unequal is thy birth, my son, and only on thy mother’s side is the way of death barred for thee; moreover, times of terror draw nigh, and peril hovers about the utmost goal. Retire we then, relax awhile thy mighty spirit, and scorn not this raiment of mine [she asks her son to disguise himself as a girl in the palace of Lykomedes of Skyros] … this way, I entreat thee, suffer me to escape the threatening, baleful cloud. Soon will I restore thy plains and the fields where the Centauri roam: by this beauty of thine and the coming joys of youth I pray thee, if for thy sake I endured the earth and an inglorious mate, if at thy birth I fortified thee with the stern waters of Styx – ay, would I had wholly! – take these safe robes awhile, they will in now wise harm thy valour. Why dost thou turn away? What means that glance? Art thou ashamed to soften thee in this garb? Dear lad, I swear it by my kindred waters, Chiron shall know nought of this.’ So doth she work on his rough heart, vainly cajoling; the thought of his sire and his great teacher oppose her prayer and the rude beginnings of his mighty spirit …
What god endued the despairing mother with fraud and cunning? What device drew Achilles from his stubborn purpose? … When he beheld her [Lykomedes’ daughter Deidameia] … the lad, ungentle as he was and heart-whole from any touch of passion, stood spellbound and drank in strange fire through all his frame …
Seizing the moment his mother purposely accosts him: ‘Is it too hard a thing, my son, to make pretence of dancing and join hands in sport among these maidens? Hast thou aught such neath Ossa and the crags of Pelion? O, if it were my lot to match two loving hearts, and to bear another Achilles in my arms!’ He is softened, and blushes for joy, and with sly and sidelong glance repels the robes less certainly. His mother sees him in doubt and willing to be compelled, and casts the raiment o’er him; then she softens his stalwart neck and bows his strong shoulders, and relaxes the muscles of his arms, and tames and orders duly his uncombed tresses, and sets her own necklace about the neck she loves; then keeping his step within the embroidered skirt she teaches him gait and motion and modesty of speech. Even as the waxen images that the artist’s thumb will make to live take from and follow the fire and the hand that carves them, such was the picture of the goddess as she transformed her son. Nor did she struggle long; for plenteous charm remains to him though his manhood book it not, and he baffles beholders by the puzzle of his sex that by a narrow margin hides its secret.
They go forward, and Thetis unsparingly plies her counsels and persuasive words: ‘Thus then, my son, must thou manage thy gait, thus thy features an thy hands, and imitate thy comrades and counterfeit their ways, lest the king [Lykomedes] suspect thee and admit thee not to the women’s chambers, and the crafty cunning of our enterprise be lost.’ So speaking she dealys not to put correcting touches to his attire …
Straightway she accosts the monarch [Lykomedes], and there in the presence of the altars: ‘Here, O king,’ she says, ‘I present to thee the sister of my Achilles – seest thou not how proud her glance and like her brother’s? – so high her spirit, she begged for arms and a bow to carry on her shoulders, and like an Amazon to spurn the thought of wedlock. But my son is enough care for me; let her carry the baskets at the sacrifice, do thou control and tame her wilfulness, and keep her to her sex, till the time for marriage come and the end of her maiden modesty; nor suffer her to engage in wanton wrestling-matches, nor to frequent the woodland haunts. Bring her up indoors, in seclusion among girls of her own age; above all remember to keep her from the harbour and the shore. Lately thou sawest the Phrygian sails [of Paris’ ships]: already ships that have crossed the sea have learnt treason to mutual loyalties.’
The sire accedes to her words, and receives the disguised Achilles by his mother’s ruse – who can resist when gods deceive? Nay more, he venerates her with suppliant’s hand, and gives thanks that he was chosen; nor is the band of duteous Scyrian maidens slow to dart keen glances at the face of their new comrade, how she o’ertops them by head and neck …
Long, ere she [Thetis] departs, lingers the mother at the gate, while she repeats advice and implants whispered secrets in his ear and in hushed tones gives her last counsels. Then she plunges into the main, and gazing back swims far away, and entreats with flattering prayers the island-shore: ‘O land that I love, to whom by timid cunning I have committed the pledge of my anxious care, a trust that is great indeed, mayst thou prosper and be silent, I beg, as Crete was silent for Rhea; enduring honour and everlasting shrines shall gird thee, nor shalt thou be surpassed by unstable Delos; sacred alike to wind and wave shalt thou be, and calm abode of Nereides among the shallows of the Cyclades, where the rocks are shattered by Aegean storms, an isle that sailors swear by – only admit no Danaan [Greek] keels, I beg! ‘Here are only the wands of Bacchus [Dionysos], nought avails for war;’ that tale bid rumour spread, and while the Dorian armaments make ready and Mavors [Ares] rages from world to world – he may, for aught I care – let Achilles be the maiden daughter of good Lycomedes.” –Achilleid 1.25

“The ship [of Odysseus sent to fetch Akhilleus from the island of Skyros] sails o’er the sea untroubled; for the Thunderer’s [Zeus’] high commands suffered not Thetis to overturn the sure decrees of Fate, faint as she was with tears, and foreboding much because she could not excite the main and straightway pursue the hated Ulysses [Odysseus] with all her winds and waves.” –Achilleid 1.684

“[Akhilleus departing from the island of Skyros] does sacrifice to the gods and the waters and south winds, and venerates with a bull the cerulean king [Poseidon] below the waves and Nereus his grandsire: his mother [Thetis] is appeased with a garlanded heifer. Thereupon casting the swollen entrails on the salt foam he addresses her: ‘Mother, I have obeyed thee, though thy commands were hard to bear; too obedient have I been: now they demand me, and I go to the Trojan war and the Argolic fleet.’ So speaking he leapt into the bark, and was swept far from the neighbourhood of land by the whistling south wind.” –Achilleid 2.14


P12.4 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Apulian Red Figure Pelike C5th BC
Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum 86.AE.611

Detail: Thetis and the Nereides, riding Hippokampoi,Ketea and dolphins, deliver the armour of Akhilleus

P12.4 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Apulian Red Figure Pelike C5th BC
Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum 86.AE.611

Detail: Thetis and the Nereides, riding Hippokampoi, Ketea and dolphins, deliver the armour of Akhilleus


THETIS, AKHILLEUS & THE TROJAN WAR

"Akhilleus weeping went and sat in sorrow .. beside the beach of the grey sea looking out on the infinite water. Many times stretching forth his hands he called on his mother [Thetis] ..
So he spoke in tears and the lady his mother heard him as she sat in the depths of the sea at the side of her aged father, and lightly she emerged like a mist from the grey water. She came and sat beside him as he wept, and stroked him with her hand and called him by name and spoke to him: 'Why then, child, do you lament? What sorrow has come to your heart now? Tell me, do not hide it in your mind, and thus we shall both know." -Iliad 1.348-363

"[Akhilleus to Thetis:] 'You then, if you have power to, protect your own son, going to Olympos and supplicating Zeus, if ever before now either by word you comforted Zeus' heart or by action. Since many times in my father's halls I have heard you making claims, when you said you only among the immortals beat aside a shameful destruction from Kronos' son the dark-misted that time when all the other Olympians sought to bind him, Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene. Then you, goddess, went and set him free from his shackles, summoning in speed the creature of the hundred hands [Briareus] to tall Olympos .. Sit beside him and take his knees and remind him of these things now..'
Thetis answered him then letting the tears fall: 'Ah me, my child. Your birth was bitterness. Why did I raise you? If only you could sit by your ships untroubled, not weeping, since indeed you lifetime is to be short, of no length. Now it has befallen that your life must be brief and bitter beyond all men's. To a bad destiny I bore you in my chambers. But I will go to cloud-dark Olympos and ask this thing of Zeus." -Iliad 1.393-420

"Nor did Thetis forget the entreaties of her son but she emerged from the sea's waves early in the morning and went up to the tall sky and Olympos. She found Kronos's broad-browed son apart from the others sitting upon the highest peak of rugged Olympos. She came and sat beside him with her left hand embracing his knees, but took him underneath the chin with her right hand and spoke in supplication to lord Zeus son of Kronos: 'Father Zeus, if ever before now in word or action I did you favour among the immortals, now grant what I ask for. Now give honour to my son short-lived beyond all other mortals. Since even now the lord of men Agamemnon dishonours him, who has taken away his prize [Briseis] and keeps it. Zeus of the counsels, lord of Olympos, now do him honour. So long put strength in to the Trojans, until the Akhaians give my son his rights, and his honour is increased among them.'
She spoke thus. But Zeus who gathers the clouds made no answer but sat in silence a long time. And Thetis, as she had taken his knees, clung fast to them and urged once more her question: 'Bend you head and promise me to accomplish this thing, or else refuse it, you have nothing to fear, that I may know by how much I am the most dishonoured of all gods.'
[Zeus agrees to her request] and Thetis leapt down again from shining Olympos into the sea's depths." -Iliad 1.495-532

"[Akhilleus:] For my mother Thetis the goddess of the silver feet tells me I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death. Either, if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans, my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers, the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly." -Iliad

"Often he [Akhilleus] had word from his mother [Thetis], not known to mortals; she was ever telling him what was the will of great Zeus." -Iliad 17.408-409

"He [Akhilleus] cried out terribly, aloud, and the lady his mother heard him as she [Thetis] sat in the depths of the sea at the side of her aged father, and she cried shrill in turn, and the goddesses gathered about her, all who along the depth of the sea were daughters of Nereus ...
The silvery cave was filled with these, and together all of them beat their breasts, and among them Thetis led out the threnody: 'Hear me Nereides, my sisters; so you may all know well all the sorrows that are in my heart, when you hear of them from me. Ah me, my sorrow, the bitterness in this best child-bearing, since I gave birth to a son who was without fault and powerful conspicuous among heroes; and he shot up like a young tree, and I nurtured him, like a tree grown in the pride of the orchard I sent him away with the curved ships to the land of Ilion to fight with the Trojans; but I shall never again receive him won home again to his country and into the house of Peleus. Yet while I see him live and he looks on the sunlight, he has sorrows, and though I go to him I can do nothing to help him. Yet I shall go, to look on my dear son, and to listen to the sorrow that has come to him as he stays back from the fighting.'
So she spoke, and left the cave, and the others together went with her in tears, and about them the wave of the water was broken. Now these, when they came to the generous Troad, followed each other out on the sea-shore, where close together the ships of the Myrmidons were hauled up about swift Akhilleus. There as he sighed heavily the lady his mother stood by him and cried out shrill and aloud, and took her son's head in the arms, then sorrowing for him she spoke to him in winged words: 'Why then, child, do you lament? What sorrow has come to you heart now? Speak out do not hide it. These things are brought to accomplishment through Zeus: in the way that you lifted your hands and prayed for ..'
Then sighing heavily Akhilleus of the swift feet answered her: 'My mother .. Hektor, who killed him [Patroklos], has stripped away the gigantic armour, a wonder to look on and splendid, which the gods gave Peleus, a glorious present, on that day they drove you to the marriage bed of a mortal. I wish you had gone on living then with the other goddesses of the sea .. Hektor [must] first be beaten down under my spear ..'
Then in turn Thetis spoke to him, letting the tears fall: 'Then I must lose you soon my child, by what you are saying since it is decreed your death must come soon after Hektor's."-Iliad 18.34-96

"In turn the goddess Thetis of the silver feet answered him: 'Yes, it is true, my child this is no cowardly action, to beat aside sudden death from your afflicted companions. Yet, see now, your splendid armour, glaring and brazen, is held among the Trojans, and Hektor .. wears it .. Yet I think he will not glory for long, since his death stands very close to him. Therefore do not yet go into the grind of the war god, not before with you own eyes you see me come back to you. For I am coming to you at dawn and as the sun rises bringing splendid armour to you from the lord Hephaistos.'
So she spoke, and turned, and went away from her son, and turning now to her sisters of the sea she spoke to them: 'Do you now go back into the wide fold of the water to visit the ancient of the sea and the house of our father, and tell him everything. I am going to tall Olympos and to Hepahistos, the glorious smith, if he might be willing to give me for my son renowned and radiant armour.'
She spoke, and they plunged back beneath the wave of the water, while she the goddess Thetis of the silver feet went onward to Olympos, to bring back to her son the glorious armour." -Iliad 18.127-147

"Thetis of the silver feet came to the house of Hephaistos .. As he was at work .. the goddess Thetis the silver-footed drew near him. Kharis of the shining veil saw her as she came forward .. She came, and caught her hand and called her by name and spoke to her: 'Why is it, Thetis of the light robes, you have come to our house now? We honour you and love you; but you have not come much before this. But come in with me so I may put entertainment before you.'
She spoke, and, shining among divinities, led the way forward and made Thetis sit down in a chair .. She called to Hephaistos the renowned smith and spoke a word to him: 'Hephaistos, come this way; here is Thetis, who has need of you.'Hearing her the renowned smith of the strong arms answered her: 'Then there is a goddess we honour and respect in our house. She saved me when I suffered much at the time of my great fall through the will of my own brazen-faced mother, who wanted to hide me for being lame. Then my soul would have taken much suffering had not Eurynome and Thetis caught me and held me .. With them I worked nine years as a smith .. working there in the hollow of the cave, and the stream of Okeanos around us went on forever with its foam and its murmur. No other among the gods or among mortal men knew about us except Eurynome and Thetis. They knew since they saved me. Now she has come into our house; so I must by all means do everything to give recompense to lovely-haired Thetis for my life. Therefore set out before her fair entertainment ..'
Moving to where Thetis sat in her shining chair, Hephaistos caught her by the hand and called her by name and spoke a word to her: 'Why is it, Thetis of the light robes, you have come to our house now? We honour you and love you; but you have not come much before this. Speak forth what is in your mind. My heart is urgent to do it if I can, and if it is a thing that can be accomplished.'
Then in turn Thetis answered him, letting the tears fall: 'Hephaistos, is there among all the goddesses on Olympos one who in her heart has endured so many grim sorrows as the griefs Zeus, son of Kronos, has given me beyond others? Of all the other sisters of the sea he gave me to a mortal, to Peleus, Aiakos' son, and I had to endure mortal marriage though much against my will. And now he, broken by mournful old age, lies away in his halls. Yet I have other troubles. For since he has given me a son to bear and to raise up .. Now I come to your knees; so might you be willing to give me for my short-lived son a shield and a helmet and two beautiful greaves fitted with clasps for the ankles and a corselet ..'
Hearing her the renowned smith of the strong arms answered her: 'Do not fear. Let not these things be a thought in you mind. And I wish that I could hide him away from death and its sorrow at that time when his hard fate comes upon him, as surely as there shall be fine armour for him, such as another man out of many men shall wonder at, when he looks on it." -Iliad 18.369-467

"When the renowned smith of the strong arms had finished the armour he lifted it and laid it before the mother of Akhilleus. And she like a hawk came sweeping down from the snows of Olympos and carried with her the shining armour, the gift of Hephaistos." -Iliad 18.612-616

"Thetis came to the ships and carried with her the gifts of Hephaistos. She found her beloved son lying in the arms of Patroklos crying shrill, and his companions in their numbers about him mourned. She, shining among divinities, stood there beside them. She clung to her son's hand and called him by name and spoke to him: 'My child, now, though we grieve for him, we must let this man lie dead in the wayhe first was killed through the gods' designing. Accept rather from me the glorious arms of Hephaistos so splendid, and such as no man has ever worn on his shoulders.'The goddess spoke so, and set down the armour on the ground before Akhilleus ...
He [Akhilleus] spoke to his mother and addressed her in winged words: 'My mother .. I am sadly afraid during this time, for the warlike son of Menoitios that flies might get into the wounds beaten by bronze in his body and breed worms in them, and these make foul the body, seeing that the life is killed in him, and that all his flesh may be rotted.'
In turn the goddess Thetis the silver-footed answered him: 'My child, no longer let these things be a care in your mind. I shall endeavour to drive from him the swarming and fierce things, those flies, which feed upon the bodies of men who have perished; and although he lie here till a year has gone to fulfilment, still his body shall be as it was or firmer that ever. Go then and summon into assembly the fighting Akhaians, .. and arm at once for the fighting, and put your war strength upon you.'
She spoke so, and drove the strength of great courage into him; and meanwhile through the nostrils of Patroklos she distilled ambrosia and red nectar, so that his flesh might not spoil." -Iliad 19.2-39

"[Akhilleus:] My own mother [Thetis] .. told me that underneath the battlements of the armoured Trojan I should be destroyed by the flying shafts of Apollon." -Iliad 21.275-278

"And among them [the soldiers at the funeral of Patroklos] Thetis stirred the passion for weeping. The sands were wet and the armour of men was wet with their tears." -Iliad 23.13-14

"Iris storm-footed sprang away with the message, and at a point between Samos and Imbros of the high cliffs plunged in the dark water, and the sea crashed moaning about her. She plummeted to the sea floor .. She found Thetis inside the hollow cave, and gathered about her sat the rest of the sea goddesses, and she in their midst was mourning the death of her blameless son, who soon was destined to die in Troy of the rich soil, far from the land of his fathers.
Iris the swift-foot came close beside her and spoke to her: 'Rise, Thetis. Zeus whose purposes are infinite calls you.'
In turn Thetis the goddess, the silver-footed , answered her: 'What does he, the great god, want with me? I feel shame fast to mingle with the immortals, and my heart is confused with sorrows. But I will go. No word shall be in vain, if he says it.'
So she spoke, and shining among divinities took up her black veil, and there is no darker garment. She went on her way, and in front of her rapid wind-footed Iris guided her, and the wave of the water opened about them. They stepped out on dry land and swept to the sky. There they found the son of Kronos of the wide brows, and gathered about him sat all the rest of the gods, the blessed who live forever. She sat down beside Zeus father, and Athene made a place for her. Hera put in to her hand a beautiful golden goblet and spoke to her to comfort her, and Thetis accepting drank from it. The father of gods and men began the discourse among them: 'You have come to Olympos, divine Thetis, for all your sorrow, with an unforgotten grief in you heart. I myself know this. But even so I will tell you why I summoned you hither .. give to your son this message .. give back [the body of] Hektor ..'
He spoke and the goddess silver-foot Thetis did not disobey him but descended in a flash of speed from the peaks of Olympos and made her way to the shelter of her son and there found him in close lamentation .. His honoured mother came close to him and sat down beside him, and stroked him with her hand and called him by name and spoke to him: 'My child, how long will you go on eating your heart out in sorrow and lamentation, and remember neither your food nor going to bed? It is a good thing even to lie with a woman in love. For you will not be with me long, but already death and powerful destiny stand closely above you. But listen hard to me, for I come from Zeus with a message .. give him [Hektor] up and accept ransom for the body.' -Iliad 24.97-137

"[Ghost of Agamemnon to ghost of Akhilleus:] Having heard the tidings [of your death] your mother herself rose from the sea with the other divinities of the waters; over the sea there now came forth an unearthly lamentation, and shuddering fell on the limbs of the Akhaians. And indeed they would have started for their ships, had they not been checked by .. Nestor .. :'Stand there, you Argives; do not turn to flight, young Akhaian warriors. This is the mother of Akhilleus; she is coming now to her dead son's side, and with her the other divinities of the waters.'
At these words the Akhaians checked their flight; the daughters of the ancient sea-god stood round about you, wailing piteously, and clothed you with celestial garments; and nine Mousai sang your dirge with sweet responsive voices. Not one Argive could you have seen there who was not weeping, the clear notes so went to their hearts. For seventeen days and seventeen nights we lamented for you, immortal beings and mortal men; on the eighteenth day we committed you to the flames .. You were burned in garments such as gods have .. Your mother gave us a golden urn that had two handles - given her, she said, by Dionysos, and made by renowned Hephaistos himself. In this your bones now lie, Akhilleus .. And over the bones our mighty host .. reared a tall cairn. Then in full view in the place of contest your mother laid out prizes for the Akhaian chieftains; she had begged the gods for them, and most noble prizes they were .. had you but seen these gifts, you must needs have wondered more - these noble prizes, set out in you honour there by your mother Thetis the silver-sandaled, because you were very dear to the gods." -Odyssey 24.15-97

"[Odysseus:] My victory in the contest when beside the ships I made my claim for the armour of Akhilleus, whose goddess-mother offered the prize." -Odyssey 15.545


P13.9 "Delivery of the Armour of Akhilleus"
Athenian Red Figure C5th BC

Detail: Thetis presents the newly crafted armour (represented by helm and shield) to her son Akhilleus

P12.7 "Nereis Thetis"
Athenian Red Figure Plate C5th BC
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 00.335

Detail: Thetis in the sea surrounded by dolphines (the figure is labelled Thetes)


"[Memnon to Akhilleus:] 'But thine [mother Thetis] -- she sits in barren crypts of brine: she dwells glorying mid dumb Ketea (Sea-monsters) and mid fish, deedless, unseen! Nothing I reck of her, nor rank her with the immortal Heavenly Ones." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.418

"[Akhilleus to Memnon:] 'From supremest Zeus I trace my glorious birth; and from the strong Sea-god Nereos, begetter of the Maids of the Sea (Kourai Einalia), the Nereides, honoured of the Olympian Gods. And chiefest of them all is Thetis, wise with wisdom world-renowned; for in her bowers she sheltered Dionysos, chased by might of murderous Lykougos from the earth. Yea, and the cunning God-smith [Hephaistos] welcomed she within her mansion, when from heaven he fell. Ay, and the Lightning-lord [Zeus] she once released from bonds. The all-seeing Dwellers in the Sky remember all these things, and reverence my mother Thetis in divine Olympos. Ay, that she is a Goddess shalt thou know when to thine heart the brazen spear shall pierce sped by my might. " -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.433

"But when long lengthened out the conflict was of those two champions [Akhilleus & Memnon], and the might of both in that strong tug and strain was equal-matched, then, gazing from Olympus' far-off heights, the Gods joyed, some in the invincible son of Peleus [and Thetis], others in the goodly child of old Tithonus and Eos (the Queen of Dawn). Thundered the heavens on high from east to west, and roared the sea from verge to verge, and rocked the dark earth 'neath the heroes' feet, and quaked proud Nereos' daughters all round Thetis thronged in grievous fear for mighty Akhilleus' sake; and trembled for her son Erigeneia (the Child of the Mist) as in her chariot through the sky she rode." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.490

"[Hera rebukes Apollon for slaying Akhilleus:] 'How wilt thou meet the Nereis' eyes when she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods, who priased thee once, and loved as her own son?' -Quintus Smyrnaeus 3.96

"Clothe [the corpse of Akhilleus] in vesture fair, sea-purple, which his mother [Thetis] gave her son at his first sailing against Troy." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 3.527

"Now [following the death of Akhilleus aon the battlefields of Troy] came the sound of that upringing wail to Nereos' Daughters, dwellers in the depths unfathomed. With sore anguish all their hearts were smitten: piteously they moaned: their cry shivered along the waves of Hellespont. Then with dark mantles overpalled they sped swiftly to where the Argive men were thronged. As rushed their troop up silver paths of sea, the flood disported round them as they came. With one wild cry they floated up; it rang, a sound as when fleet-flying cranes forebode a great storm. Moaned the Ketea (Monsters of the Deep) plaintively round that train of mourners. Fast on sped they to their goal, with awesome cry wailing the while their sister's mighty son.
swiftly from Helikon the Mousai came heart-burdened with undying grief, for love and honour to the Nereis starry-eyed.
Then Zeus with courage filled the Argive men, that-eyes of flesh might undismayed behold that glorious gathering of Goddesses. Then those Divine Ones round Akhilleus' corpse pealed forth with one voice from immortal lips a lamentation. Rang again the shores of Hellespont. As rain upon the earth their tears fell round the dead man, Aiakos' son; for out of depths of sorrow rose their moan. And all the armour, yea, the tents, the ships of that great sorrowing multitude were wet with tears from ever-welling springs of grief.
His mother [Thetis] cast her on him, clasping him, and kissed her son's lips, crying through her tears: 'Now let rosy-vestured Erigeneia (Dawn) in heaven exult! Now let broad-flowing Axios exult, and for Asteropaios dead put by his wrath! Let Priamos' seed be glad but I unto Olympos will ascend, and at the feet of everlasting Zeus will cast me, bitterly planning that he gave me, an unwilling bride, unto a man -- a man whom joyless eld soon overtook, to whom the Keres (Fates) are near, with death for gift. Yet not so much for his lot do I grieve as for Akhilleus; for Zeus promised me to make him glorious in the Aiakid halls, in recompense for the bridal I so loathed that into wild wind now I changed me, now to water, now in fashion as a bird I was, now as the blast of flame; nor might a mortal win me for his bride, who seemed all shapes in turn that earth and heaven contain, until the Olympian pledged him to bestow a godlike son on me, a lord of war. Yea, in a manner this did he fulfil faithfully; for my son was mightiest of men. But Zeus made brief his span of life unto my sorrow. Therefore up to heaven will I: to Zeus's mansion will I go and wail my son, and will put Zeus in mind of all my travail for him and his sons in their sore stress, and sting his soul with shame.'
So in her wild lament the Sea-queen cried.
But now to Thetis spake Kalliope, she in whose heart was steadfast wisdom throned:
'From lamentation, Thetis, now forbear, and do not, in the frenzy of thy grief for thy lost son, provoke to wrath the Lord of Gods and men. Lo, even sons of Zeus, the Thunder-king, have perished, overborne by evil fate. Immortal though I be, mine own son Orpheus died, whose magic song drew all the forest-trees to follow him, and every craggy rock and river-stream, and blasts of winds shrill-piping stormy-breathed, and birds that dart through air on rushing wings. yet I endured mine heavy sorrow: Gods ought not with anguished grief to vex their souls. Therefore make end of sorrow-stricken wail for thy brave child; for to the sons of earth minstrels shall chant his glory and his might, by mine and by my sisters' inspiration, unto the end of time. Let not thy soul be crushed by dark grief, nor do thou lament like those frail mortal women. Know'st thou not that round all men which dwell upon the earth hovereth irresistible deadly Aisa (Fate), who recks not even of the Gods? Such power she only hath for heritage. Yea, she soon shall destroy gold-wealthy Priamos' town, and Trojans many and Argives doom to death, ahomso she will. No God can stay her hand.'
So in her wisdom spake Kalliope.
Then plunged the sun down into Okeanos' stream, and sable-vestured Nyx (Night) came floating up o'er the wide firmament, and brought her boon of sleep to sorrowing mortals. ...
But upon Thetis sleep laid not his hand: still with the deathless Nereides by the sea she sate; on either side the Mousai spake one after other comfortable words to make that sorrowing heart forget its pain.
But when with a triumphant laugh Eos (the Dawn) soared up the sky, and her most radiant light shed over all the Trojans and their king, then, sorrowing sorely for Akhilleus still, the Danaans woke to weep. Day after day, for many days they wept. Around them moaned far-stretching beaches of the sea, and mourned great Nereus for his daughter Thetis' sake; and mourned with him the other Sea-gods all for dead Akhilleus. Then the Argives gave the corpse of great Peleides to the flame ...
Then, when all things were set in readiness about the pyre, all, footmen, charioteers, compassed that woeful bale, clashing their arms, while, from the viewless heights Olympian, Zeus rained down ambrosia on dead Aiakos' son. For honour to the Goddess, Nereos' child, he sent to Aiolos Hermes, bidding him summon the sacred might of his swift Anemoi (Winds), for that the corpse of Aiakos' son must now be burned
... His bones, and in a silver casket laid massy and deep, and banded and bestarred with flashing gold; and Nereus' daughters shed ambrosia over them, and precious nards for honour to Akhilleus: fat of kine and amber honey poured they over all. A golden vase his mother gave, the gift in old time of the Wine-god, glorious work of the craft-master Fire-god, in the which they laid the casket that enclosed the bones of mighty-souled Achilles. All around the Argives heaped a barrow, a giant sign, upon a foreland's uttermost end, beside the Hellespont's deep waters, wailing loud farewells unto the Myrmidons' hero-king." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 3.580

"Then from the surge of heavy-plunging seas rose the Earth-shaker [Poseidon]. No man saw his feet pace up the strand, but suddenly he stood beside the Nereid Goddesses, and spake to Thetis, yet for Akhilleus bowed with grief: 'Refrain from endless mourning for thy son. Not with the dead shall he abide, but dwell with Gods, as doth the might of Herakles, and Dionysos ever fair. Not him dread doom shall prison in darkness evermore, nor Haides keep him. To the light of Zeus soon shall he rise; and I will give to him s holy island for my gift: it lies within the Euxine Sea: there evermore a God thy son shall be. The tribes that dwell around shall as mine own self honour him with incense and with steam of sacrifice. Hush thy laments, vex not thine heart with grief.'
Then like a wind-breath had he passed away over the sea, when that consoling word was spoken; and a little in her breast revived the spirit of Thetis: and the God brought this to pass thereafter. All the host moved moaning thence, and came unto the ships that brought them o'er from Hellas. Then returned to Helikon the Mousai: 'neath the sea, wailing the dear dead, Nereus' Daughters sank." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 3.766

"Then unto Kronides [Zeus] great Hera spake: 'Zeus, Lightning-father, wherefore helpest thou Troy, all forgetful of the fair-haired bride [Thetis] whom once to Peleus thou didst give to wife midst Pelion's glens? Thyself didst bring to pass those spousals of a Goddess: on that day all we Immortals feasted there, and gave gifts passing-fair. All this dost thou forget, and hast devised for Hellas heaviest woe." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 4.48

"Aias spake [to the Greek troops after the funeral of Akhilleus]: '... We must needs abide amidst the ships till Goddess Thetis come forth of the sea; for that her heart is purposed to set here fair athlete-prizes for the funeral-games. This yesterday she told me, ere she plunged into sea-depths, yea, spake to me apart from other Danaans; and, I trow, by this her haste hath brought her nigh. Yon Trojan men, though Peleus' son hath died, shall have small heart for battle, while myself am yet alive, and thou, and noble Atreus' son, the king.'
So spake the mighty son of Telamon, but knew not that a dark and bitter doom for him should follow hard upon those games by Fate's contrivance. Answered Tydeus' son 'O friend, if Thetis comes indeed this day with goodly gifts for her son's funeral-games, then bide we by the ships, and keep we here all others. Meet it is to do the will of the Immortals: yea, to Akhilleus too, though the Immortals willed it not, ourselves must render honour grateful to the dead.'
So spake the battle-eager Tydeus' son. And lo, the Bride of Peleus gliding came forth of the sea, like the still breath of dawn, and suddenly was with the Argive throng where eager-faced they waited, some, that looked soon to contend in that great athlete-strife, and some, to joy in seeing the mighty strive. Amidst that gathering Thetis sable-stoled set down her prizes, and she summoned forth Akhaia's champions: at her best they came ... [first was the competition of song]
That noble song [of Nestor] acclaiming Argives praised; yea, silver-looted Thetis smiled, and gave the singer fleetfoot horses, given of old beside Kaikos' mouth by Telephos to Akhilleus ...
Then Thetis set amidst the athlete-ring ten kine, to be her prizes for the footrace, and by each ran a fair suckling calf. These the bold might of Peleus' tireless son had driven down from slopes of Ida, prizes of his spear. To strive for these rose up two victory-fain, Teukros ... and Aias ... these twain with swift hands girded them about with loin-cloths, reverencing the Goddess-bride of Peleus, and the Sea-maids, [the contest was normally performed naked but for the presence of the goddesses] who with her came to behold the Argives' athlete-sport ... [the contest of wrestling]
Then Thetis, queen of Goddesses, gave to them [the wrestlers] four handmaids [slave-girls of Akhilleus] ...
[Noone challenged king Idomeneus in the contest of wrestling] In their midst gave Thetis unto him a chariot and fleet steeds, which theretofore mighty Patroklos from the ranks of Troy drave, when he slew Sarpedon, seed of Zeus ...
[More warriors come forth to wrestle] Then Thetis sable-stoled gave to their glad hands [the boxers] two great silver bowls which Euneus, Jason's warrior son in sea-washed Lemnos to Akhilleus gave to ransom strong Lykaon ...
[Aias wins the archery contest] Then Peleus' bride gave unto him the arms of godlike Troilos, the goodliest of all fair sons whom Hekuba had borne in hallowed Troy ...
[Aias wins the bar throwing contest] So then the Nereis gave to him the glorious arms from godlike Memnon stripped ...
[Agapenor wins the foot-race] And Thetis gave him the fair battle-gear of mighty Kyknos, who had smitten first Protesilaus, then had reft the life from many more, till Peleus' son slew him ...
[Euryalos wins the javelin-throwing contest] the Aiakid hero's mother gave to him a deep wide silver oil-flask, ta'en by Akhilleus in possession, when his spear slew Mynes, and he spoiled Lyrnessos' wealth ...
[Aias wins the prize uncontested in hand & foot fighting] Gleaming talents twain of silver he from Thetis' hands received, his uncontested prize ...
[Menelaus wins the chariot races] Menelaus with exceeding joy of victory glowed, when Thetis 1ovely-tressed gave him a golden cup, the chief possession once of Eetion the godlike; ere Akhilleus spoiled the far-famed burg of [Asian] Thebes ...
[Agamemnon wins the horseback racing contest] Then Thetis gave to Atreus' son, while laughed his lips for joy, god-sprung Polydoros' breastplate silver-wrought. To Sthenelos [who came second] Asteropaios' massy helm, two lances, and a taslet strong, she gave. Yea, and to all the riders who that day came at Akhilleus' funeral-feast to strive she gave gifts." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 4.87

"So when all other contests [funeral games of Akhilleus] had an end, Thetis the Goddess laid down in the midst great-souled Akhilleus' arms divinely wrought; and all around flashed out the cunning work wherewith Hephaistos (the Fire-god) overchased the shield fashioned for Aiakos' son, the dauntless-souled ...
Then mid the Argives Thetis sable-stoled in her deep sorrow for Akhilleus spake; 'Now all the athlete-prizes have been won which I set forth in sorrow for my child. Now let that mightiest of the Argives come who rescued from the foe my dead: to him these glorious and immortal arms I give which even the blessed Deathless joyed to see.'
Then rose in rivalry, each claiming them, Laertes' seed [Odysseus] and godlike Telamon's son, Aias, the mightiest far of Danaan men [to lay claim to the armour of Akhilleus] ...
[The Greek leaders awarded the armour to Odysseus and then] into the great deep Thetis plunged, and all the Nereides with her. Round them swam Sea-monsters many, children of the brine. Against the wise Prometheus bitter-wroth the Sea-maids were, remembering how that Zeus, moved by his prophecies, unto Peleus gave Thetis to wife, a most unwilling bride. Then cried in wrath to these Kymothoe: 'O that the pestilent prophet [Prometheus] had endured all pangs he merited, when, deep-burrowing, the eagle tare his liver aye renewed!" -Quintus Smyrnaeus 5.1 & 334

"Then thrust they [the corpse of Aias who killed himself upon losing the armour of Akhilleus to Odysseus] in the strength of ravening flame, and from the sea there breathed a wind, sent forth by Thetis, to consume the giant frame of Aias." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 5.636

"Exulted Thetis' heart when from the sea she saw the mighty strength of her son's son [Neoptolemos brought to join the Trojan War]." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 8.24

"Mid triumphant mirth he [Neoptolemos celebrating his victory over Eurypylos in the Trojan War] feasted in kings' tents: no battle-toil had wearied him; for Thetis from his limbs had charmed all ache of travail, making him as one whom labour had no power to tire." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 8.492

"Peleides' fierce-heart son [Neoptolemos] of other ranks made havoc. Thetis gazed rejoicing in her son's son, with a joy as great as was her grief for Akhilleus slain." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 9.182

"Yet not against Aeneas Akhilleus' son [Neoptolemos] upraised his father's spear, but elsewhither turned his fury: in reverence for Aphrodite [mother of Aeneas], Thetis splendour-veiled turned from that man her mighty son's son's rage and giant strength on other hosts of foes." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 11.238

"Fast rowed the host [of Greek troops returning to Troy following the ruse of the Wooden Horse] the while; on swept the ships over the great flood: Thetis made their paths straight, and behind them sent a driving wind speeding them." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 13.63

"And Peleus' son, that one son whom the immortal Thetis in Phthia bore, gave up his life in the fore-front of war." -Pythian Ode 3 ant 5


T19.9 "Psychostasia of Memnon and Akhilleus"
Athenian Red Figure Stamnos C5th BC
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 10.177

Detail: Eos and Thetis plead with Hermes as he weighs the fates of their two sons

T19.9 "The Trojan War"
Athenian Red Figure Kylix C5th BC
London, British Museum E 67

Detail: Thetis and Eos stand with their sons Akhilleus and Memnon as the pair engage in battle


“The doughty son of the dark-haired Nereis Thetis.” –Pindar Paean 6

“Akhilleus called his mother [Thetis], naming her, the Naiad, best of the sea-nymphs; and she, clasping the knees of Zeus, begged him to (prosper) the wrath of her beloved son.” –Greek Lyric I Alcaeus Frag 44

"The fearless son [Akhilleus] of the violet-crowned Nereis [Thetis]." -Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 13

“Neither doth Thetis his mother wail her dirge for Akhilleus, when she hears Hie Paieon, Hie Paieon [the hymn to Apollon].” -Callimachus, Hymn II to Apollon 20

"When Akhilleus was nine, Khalkas announced that Troy could not be captured without him. Thetis, who had foreknowledge that he would have to die if he went to war, concealed him in women's dress and handed him over to Lykomedes as a girl." -Apollodorus 3.174

"Akhilleus plunged a sword into his [Tenes'] chest and killed him, even though Thetis warned him not to. For he himself would be slain by Apollon, if he should slay Tenes." -Apollodorus E3.26

"Thetis warned Akhilleus not to be the first to disembark from the ships [at Troy], because the first to land was going to be the first to die." -Apollodorus E3.29

"Thetis came to persuade Neoptolemos to wait two days [before departing from Troy] and make sacrifices, and he obeyed her. But the others left and were overtaken by storms." -Apollodorus E6.5

"Aias fell into the sea and was drowned. After his body was cast ashore, Thetis buried it on Mykonos." - Apollodorus E6.6

“[Depicted on the chest of Cypselus at Olympia] Akhilleus and Memnon are fighting; their mothers [Thetis & Eos] stand by their side.” –Pausanias 5.19.1

“[Depicted on the chest of Cypselus at Olympia] Next come two-horse chariots with women standing in them. The horses have golden wings, and a man is giving armour to one of the women. I conjecture that this scene refers to the death of Patroklos; the women in the chariots, I take it, are Nereides, and Thetis is receiving the armour from Hephaistos. And moreover, he who is giving the armour is not strong upon his feet, and a slave follows him behind, holding a pair of fire-tongs.” –Pausanias 5.19.8-9

“[At Olympia there] is a semicircular stone pedestal, an on it are Zeus, Thetis and Hemera entreating Zeus on behalf of their children. These are on the middle of the pedestal. There are Akhilleus and Memnon, one at either edge of the pedestal, representing a pair of combatants in position.” –Pausanias 5.22.2

"Akhilleus, killed by [the Amazon] Penthesileia, was resuscitated at the request of his mother Thetis to return to Hades once he had killed Penthesileia." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk6 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

“When Thetis the Nereis knew that Achilles, the son she had borne to Peleus, would die if he went to attack Troy, she sent him to the island of Scyros, entrusting him to King Lycomedes.” –Hyginus Fabulae 96

“Thetis his [Akhilleus’] mother secured armor for him from Vulcan, and the Nereides brought it to him over the sea. Wearing this he slew Hector.” –Hyginus Fabulae 106

"When his [Akhilleus’] sea-nymphe mother [Thetis] had that high ambition for her son … [she obtained divine armour for him] celestial gifts, this work of art so fine … scenes embossed upon the shield, the ocean and the lands, the constellations in the height of heaven, the Pleiades and the Hyades and Arctos (the Bear), banned from the sea, Orion’s shining sword, the cities set apart." -Metamorphoses 13.288

“Even so did Thetis swoon to see Pelides [Akhilleus] fall, pierced by the hand of coward Paris.” –Silvae 2.7.96


THETIS & THE METAMORPHOSIS OF HELENE

"Some authors ... say that she [Helene] was removed during the voyage of the Greeks home by Thetis, metamorphosed into a seal [probably out of anger for the death of Akhilleus]." - Ptolemy Hephaestion Bk4 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)


MISCELLANEOUS

“Matron the parodist, in the Banquet, has, ‘He brought oysters, which are the truffles [that is, a great delicacy] of the Nereis Thetis.” –Athenaeus 2.62c


P12.6 "Nereid riding Hippocamp" 
Greek Mosaic, Eretria C1st BC

Detail: Thetis delivers the arms of Akhilleus on the back of a Hippokampos

P12.9 "Nereides and Bythos"
Roman Mosaic, Paphos C4th AD
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park (Cyprus)

Detail: Thetis is carried in the sea on the back of the sea-centaur Bythos, accompanied by her sisters Doris and Galateia

CULT OF THETIS

"[A storm struck the historic Persian fleet that was descending upon Greece] ... finally the [Persian] Magi made offerings and cast spells upon the Wind [Boreas], sacrificing also to Thetis and the Nereides. In this way they made the Wind stop on the fourth day--or perhaps it died down on its own. They sacrificed to Thetis after hearing from the Ionians the story that it was from this place that Peleus had carried her off and that all the headland of Sepia belonged to her and to the other Nereides." -Herodotus 7.178.1

“The sanctuary of Thetis [at Sparta, Lakedaimon] was set up, they say, for the following reason. The Lakedaimonians were making war against the Messenians, who had revolted, and their king Anaxandros, having invaded Messenia, took prisoners certain women, and among them Kleo, priestess of Thetis. This Kleo the wife of Anazandros asked for from her husban, and discovering that she had the wooden image of Thetis, she set up with her a temple for the goddess. This Leandris did because of a vision in a dream, but the wooden image of Thetis is guarded in secret.” –Pausanias 3.14.4

“But when Menelaus had taken Ilion and had returned safe home eight years after the sack of Troy, he set up near the sanctuary of Migonitis [sanctuary of Aphrodite founded by Paris at Migonion, Lakedaimon] an image of Thetis and the goddesses Praxidikai (Exacters of Justice).” –Pausanias 3.22.2

“The recesses of Lakinion [in Italia] wherein a heifer [Thetis] shall fashion an orchard for the goddess Hoplosmia [Hera], furnished with trees. And it shall be for all time an ordinance for women of the land to mourn the nine-cubit hero [Akhilleus], third in descent from Aiakos [grandfather of Akhilleus] and Doris [Thetis’ mother], the hurricane of battle strife, and not to deck their radiant limbs with gold, nor array them in fine-spun robes stained with purple – because a goddess [Thetis] to a goddess [Hera] presents that great spur of land [Lakinion] to be her dwelling-place.” –Lycophron 856


Sources:

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