The Ancient Library

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On this page: Nummularii – Nundinae – Nycteus – Nymphs – Obe – Obolus



are quoted by Cicero [de Or. ii 255, 279, 285]. Over forty titles of his works are mentioned, among them, as in the case of Pomponius, some which suggest travesties of mythological subjects; e.g., Hercules as Auctioneer.

Nummularli. See moneychangers.

Nnmmus (coin). A special name for the commonest coin at Rome, which generally served as the unit of reckoning, the sestertius (q.v., under coinage).

Nundlnffi. The Roman term for the mar­ket day held on the last day of the week of eight days, on which countrymen rested from labour and came to Rome to buy and sell, as well as to do other business. Accord­ingly the Nundinee were used for public announcements, especially concerning public assemblies and the business to be conducted in them. The actual holding of the assem­blies on these days was avoided, so as not to prevent the people from attending to the business of the market. Originally too no legal business was conducted on them, and it was not till the beginning of the 3rd century b.c. that it was introduced. The Nundinse, though not a regular feast-day, were nevertheless celebrated in private life by inviting strangers to one's table and exempting children from going to school.

Nycteus. Son of Poseidon and the Pleiad Celseno, brother of Lycus (q.v., 1) and father of AntlSpe (q.v.). After the early death of Cadmus' son Polydorus he administered the government of Thebes for Labdacus, who was a minor, until he met his death in battle with Epopeus, his daughter's husband. Nymphs (properly "the young maidens"), Inferior divinities of Nature who dwell in groves, forests and caves, beside springs, streams and rivers; in some cases too on lonely islands, like Calypso and Circe. The nymphs of the hills, the forests, the meadows and the springs (called in Homer daughters of Zeus, while Hesiod makes the nymphs of the hills and the forests together with the hills and the forests children of earth) appear as the benevo­lent spirits of these spots, and lead a life of liberty, sometimes weaving in grottoes, sometimes dancing and singing, sometimes hunting with Artemis or revelling with

Dionysus. Besides these divinities it is especially Apollo, Hermes and Pan who are devoted to them and seek after their love; while the wanton satyrs are also continu­ally lying in wait for them. They are well disposed towards mortals and ready to help them : they even wed with them. Accord­ing to the various provinces of nature were distinguished various kinds of nymphs: nymphs of rivers and springs, the Naiads, to whom the Oceanids and Nereids are closely related; nymphs of the hills, Oreads; nymphs of the forests and trees, Dryads or Hdmadryads; besides this they often re­ceived special names after certain places, hills, springs and grottoes. The Naiads, as the goddesses of the nourishing and fructi­fying water, were especially rich in favours, giving increase and fruitfulness to plants, herds and mortals. Hence they were also considered as the guardian goddesses of marriage, and the besprinkling of the bride with spring-water was one of the indispen­sable rites of the marriage ceremony. On the same principle, legendary lore represents them as nursing and bringing up the chil­dren of the gods, as for instance Zeus and Dionysus. Further, owing to the healing and inspiring power of many springs, they belong to the divinities of healing and pro­phesying, and can even drive men into a transport of prophetic and poetic inspiration. The Muses themselves are in their origin fountain-nymphs. Popular belief assigned to the nymphs in general an exceedingly long life, without actual immortality. The existence of Dryads, it was supposed, was closely bound up with the origin and decay of the tree in which they dwelt. They enjoyed divine honours from the earliest times, originally in the spots where they had power, at fountains, and in groves and grottoes. In later times shrines of their own, hence called NympJicea, were built to them, even in cities. These eventually became very magnificent buildings, in which it was customary to celebrate marriages. Goats, lambs, milk, and oil were offered to them. Works of art represented them in the form of charming maidens, lightly clothed or naked, with flowers and garlands; the Naiads drawing water or carrying it in an urn.

6be The Spartan term for each of the 30^sub-divisions of the phyla: (q.v.). Ob&lus. A weight as well as a silver coin

among the Greeks = -J- drachma; the Attic obolus amounted in intrinsic value to l'3rf (Op. coinage.) The ancients used to put

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