Who is Nyx in Greek Mythology?
NYX, in Greek mythology, is the goddess of the night and the daughter of CHAOS. According to the Greek myths, Nyx was told to be very beautiful when in her physical form. Her birth isn’t associated with Gaia, as other primordial gods and goddesses are, but instead, she is older than Gaia. It is said that she was created near the beginning of time. Her home can be found in the depths of Hades’ underworld.
In the very beginning, there was nothing. Just an empty void, then came Chaos, the first of all of the primordial deities to appear in the Greek universe. Every god and goddess that features in Greek mythology has somewhat descended from Chaos. Today, we’ll be looking at what many consider to be her first child, Nyx, the goddess of night.
There are different stories and versions of Greek mythology where Nyx is considered the first primordial deity assumed in a creator’s role that we generally associated with Chaos. Still, we’ll be focusing on her depiction there’s a daughter of Chaos.
With Nyx and Erebus being two of the earliest primordial deities, we can assume that the world was shrouded in darkness. Erebus himself, after all, was the personification of darkness and shadows. This would, however, eventually change when Nyx and Erebus would partner together; they produced Aether and Hemera. Aether being light, and Hemera being day. The exact opposite to their parents, night and darkness.
Depictions of Nyx, like many of the other primordial deities, can vary drastically. As many of them are thought to represent abstract or specific concepts. Nyx, in her literal form, would be the night that surrounds us. In her physical form, she was either shown as being an extremely beautiful woman, dressed in black surrounded by a dark mist, sometimes ride in a chariot or as a winged goddess with a halo made from a dark cloud.
Nyx is one of the oldest deities in Greek mythology, which meant that she had numerous children, including Thanatos, the god of death; Hypnos, the god of sleep; Moros, the god of doom; Eris, the goddess of strife; Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution; the Keres, bringer of violence and death; the Oneiroi, the bringers of Dreams; and in some cases, she was even mother to the Moirai, the three goddesses of fate.
Nyx and many of the other primordial deities were believed to reside in the depths of Tartarus. A common belief was that during the day, both Nyx and Erebus would lay dormant in the darkest crevices of Tartarus, and each night they would emerge, hand-in-hand together, as they blocked the light that was emitted by Aether, bringing darkness and in turn the night to the world. The following morning, Hemera, just as her parents had done previously, would emerge from Tartarus and sweep away the darkness, leaving her mother and father to return.
The cycle meant that Nyx wouldn’t spend much time off her daughter as they were never in the same place for very long. And the ancient Greeks likely used Nyx and her children’s story as one of the first explanations of the night and day cycle. This story did change when Eos became the goddess of dawn, and Helios and Apollo would replace the roles of Aether and Hemera.
However, Nyx was never really replaced throughout Greek mythology, and this could be because the ancient Greeks considered her to be extremely powerful and, as a result, held her in high regard. Regardless of how she was viewed, Nyx still doesn’t feature in many stories.
There are those who believe when Cronus castrated his father, he did so in the cover of night and thus, the goddess protected him. But perhaps, one of the most famous stories featuring Nyx involves one of her children.
Hera asked Hypnos to place Zeus into a deep sleep, as she could plot against him. Hypnos attempted to do as Hera asked, but he wasn’t powerful enough to keep Zeus asleep for very long, and when Zeus awoke, he pursued Hypnos relentlessly. Fearing for his life, he did the only thing that he knew would keep him safe and fled to his mother’s cabin in Tartarus.
When Zeus eventually learned of where Hypnos had gone, he decided against pursuing that god any further for fear of angering Nyx. In some variations, Nyx found Zeus and persuaded him to stop the pursuit of his son, even receiving an apology from Zeus.
Nyx, a goddess that many saw as a facilitator to some of our darkest desires and even most horrendous actions, be it two lovers sneaking out to seek each other under cover of dusk or murder being committed in the shadows of night. Many also saw Nyx as a protector; fugitives often looked and prayed towards Nyx, hoping and shielding them safe passage in the night.
She was a goddess immensely feared, even by Zeus, which doesn’t happen too often in Greek mythology, and I feel it raises an interesting point of discussion. This could be because Nyx is older and more powerful than Zeus.
It’s pretty standard for people to say that they’re afraid of the dark or the night, but you’ll also hear these same people tell you that it’s not the darkness they’re fearful of, but rather what hides in the dark—the fear of uncertainty can make one feel helpless.
The gods and goddesses may not have been scared of Nyx, but rather the darkness she brings and what is concealed behind it. Whether you believe that Nyx was the very first primordial deity or at least one of the earliest, there’s no denying that she was an extraordinarily influential and powerful figure. She was responsible for the very first notion of the night and day cycle, and along with virtually creating the light and the day, she gave birth to many children, who performed the vital and influential roles.
What I find most interesting about Nyx is that she’s a goddess that many people are familiar with, but she’s never really given a defining set of characteristics. We know that she was widely respected and feared, but we don’t know much else. She’s a goddess that you could interpret the way you’d like to. —You can choose to see her as the literal night that surrounds us or as a powerful woman shrouded in darkness, bringing the night to wherever she goes.