Hesperides

MYTHOLOGY MEME ~ [1/6] Muses/Nymphs ~ The Hesperides

The Hesperides were the goddesses of the evening and golden light of sunset. The three nymphs were daughters of either Nyx (Night) or the heaven-bearing Titan Atlas. They were entrusted with the care of the tree of the golden apples which was first presented to the goddess Hera by Gaia on her wedding day. They were assisted in their task by a hundred-headed guardian drakon named Ladon. Herakles was sent to fetch the apples as one of his twelve labours, and upon slaying the serpent, stole the precious fruit. (x)

Large (Wikimedia)

This warm little portal is Sir Frederic Leighton’s 1892 The Garden of the Hesperides.

As the Encyclopædia Britannica will tell you, the Hesperides—and Ladon (a dragon)—were tasked with protecting a tree growing beautiful golden apples.

Here Leighton has transformed Ladon into a serpent, which (the National Museums Liverpool page points out) gives the work Biblical overtones.

Certainly—with the ocean in the background, a verdantly grassy beach in the middleground, and a pair of egrets settled comfortably into a flowering bush at the front—Eden doesn’t seem like a far cry.

It seems like an exception to the trend the Tate notes: “in his last years a note of melancholy entered [Leighton’s] work.”

But then, perhaps there is a note of melancholy.

After all, who knows how imminently Hercules will be visiting?

Detail of the three Hesperides, the tree of the Golden Apples and the coiling Drakon. The larger scene depicts the arrival of Medea and the Argonauts in the garden, on their return to Greece from Kolkhis.

Attic Red Figure, ca 420 - 410 BC, British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

Atlas and the Hesperides - John Singer Sargent, 1922-1925

Atlas was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance (atlaô). In one tradition, Atlas led the Titans in a rebellion against Zeus and was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. In another, he was said to have been appointed guardian of the pillars which held earth and sky asunder. He was also the god who instructed mankind in the art of astronomy, a tool which was used by sailors in navigation and farmers in measuring the seasons. These roles were often combined and Atlas becomes the god who turns the heaven on their axis, causing the stars to revolve.

The Hesperides were the goddesses of the evening and golden light of sunset. The three nymphs were daughters of the heaven-bearing Titan Atlas. They were entrusted with the care of the tree of the golden apples which was first presented to the goddess Hera by Gaia (Earth) on her wedding day. Herakles was sent to fetch the apples as one of his twelve labours, and upon slaying the serpent, stole the precious fruit.

The Hesperides were the goddesses of the evening and golden light of sunset. The three nymphs were daughters of either Nyx, (Night,) or the heaven-bearing Titan Atlas. They were entrusted with the care of the tree of the golden apples which was first presented to the goddess Hera by Gaia, (Earth,) on her wedding day. They were assisted in their task by a hundred-headed guardian drakon named Ladon. Herakles was sent to fetch the apples as one of his twelve labours, and upon slaying the serpent, stole the precious fruit. However, Athena later returned them to the Hesperides.

The three nymphs and their golden apples were apparently regarded as the source of the golden light of sunset, a phenomena celebrating the bridal of the heavenly gods Zeus and Hera.

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GREEK MYTHOLOGY


HESPERIDES

In Greek mythology, the Hesperides (Ἑσπερίδες) are nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world, located near the neighbourhood of Cyrene or Benghazi in Libya or the Atlas mountains in North Africa at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean. The nymphs are said to be the daughters of Hesperus.

According to the Sicilian Greek poet Stesichorus, in his poem the Song of Geryon, and the Greek geographer Strabo, in his book Geographika (volume III), the garden of the Hesperides is located in Tartessos, a location placed in the south of the Iberian peninsula.

By Ancient Roman times, the garden of the Hesperides had lost its archaic place in religion and had dwindled to a poetic convention, in which form it was revived in Renaissance poetry, to refer both to the garden and to the nymphs that dwelt there.