The ancient Greeks believed in spirits and creatures that presided over certain parts of their world. In this article, you will encounter some of the beasts and creatures that have appeared in ancient Greek myths, including dryads and satyrs.
Agathodaemon (also known as Agathos Daimon) was a spirit that watched over the vineyards and grain fields. He was also a companion spirit who was associated with good luck, health and wisdom. He appeared little in Greek mythology, but was a prominent figure in Greek folk religion. In every formal banquet or symposium, it was a custom to drink or pour out a few drops of unmixed wine to pay homage to the spirit.
Amphisbaena (also referred to as the Mother of Ants) is a mythological serpent known to eat ants with the two heads it had on each end of its body. Greek myths state that the amphisbaena came into existence from the blood that dripped from Medusa’s head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert , carrying it in his hand. Another tale states that as Cato’s army marched, he encountered it with other serpents. In folk medicine circles, the creature was thought to play a role in natural remedies. Pregnant women who wore a live amphisbaena around their necks were thought to face no complications during their pregnancy. The skin was associated with curing arthritis and the common cold. The legendary creature has been referenced by Pliny the Elder and Lucan, as well as more recent poets, such as John Milton, Lord Tennyson, and Alexander Pope.
Dactyls appeared in Greek tales as an archaic mythical race comprised of small male beings with a connection to the Great Mother , Cybele or Rhea. In ancient times, they were smith and healing magicians. Sometimes, they worked under the god Hephaestus, who was the god of blacksmiths. The humans would learn metalworking, mathematics, and the alphabet from the dactyls.
In Greek myths, the creature with human and goat parts was called a satyr. These creatures were the male companions of Pan and Dionysus , the god of wine. Satyrs were depicted as wandering about the woods and mountains. Satyrs were often described as mischievous but shy and cowardly. They had a dangerous streak if you were not careful. Since they were associated with Dionysus (the god of wine), they were linked to the beverage and women as well. Cymbals, pipes, castanets, and bagpipes were instruments that the satyrs moved to. These creatures were obsessed with nympths and often got into dilemmas because of their habit of following them around. They loved to pursue the creatures, as well as dance in the woods.
Tree nymphs in Greek mythology were called by different names according to the trees that they were associated with. Dryads were specifically attached to the oak tree and in many cases, the term was used to describe tree nymphs in general. Poetry and Greek cults had a knack for worshipping such creatures. In myths, they were described as being very shy, but they were known to come out of their shell when they were in the presence of the goddess Artemis, who was very friendly with most nymphs. Another kind of dryad that appeared in Greek myths was the Meliai , who were linked to ash trees.