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(mith) - Greece


Minor Sea-God


Nerites is a minor Sea-God who was the handsome, young lover and charioteer of Poseidon who dared to challenge the sun-god Helios to a chariot-race. Nerites was defeated and as punishment for his hubris was transformed permanently by the sun-god into a shell-fish.

The writer Aelian in his book On Animals wrote that:

Poseidon was the lover of Nerites, and that Nerites returned his love, and that this was the origin of the celebrated Anteros (Mutual Love). And so, as I am told, of the rest the favourite spent his time with his lover, and moreover when Poseidon drove his chariot over the waves, all together great fishes as well as dolphins and Tritones too, sprang up from their deep haunts and gambolled and danced around the chariot, only to be left utterly and far behind by the speed of his horses; only the boy favourite was his escort close at hand, and before them the waves sank to rest and the sea parted out of reverence to Poseidon, for the god willed that his beautiful favourite should not only be highly esteemed for other reasons but should also be pre-eminent at swimming.

But the story relates that Helios the Sun resented the boy’s power of speed and transformed his body into the spiral shell as it now is: the cause of his anger I cannot tell, neither does the fable mention it [perhaps Nerites bragged that his chariot was swifter than that of the sun god or perhaps challenged the god to a race]. But if one may guess where there is nothing to go by, Poseidon and Helios might be said to be rivals. And it may be that Helios was vexed at the boy travelling about in the sea and wished that he should travel among the constellations instead of being counted among the Ketea (Sea-Monsters).


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