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For the British organization, see Graeae Theatre Company.
Not to be confused with Graea. ‹See Tfd›
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Perseus Returning the Eye of the Graiai, Henry Fuseli.

In Greek mythology the Graeae (Gry-eye, gry-ee, gray-ee; English translation: "old women", "grey ones", or "grey witches"; alternatively spelled Graiai (Γραῖαι) and Graiae), also called the Grey Sisters, were three sisters in Greek mythology who shared one eye and one tooth among them.

Their names were Deino, Enyo, and Pemphredo.


The word Graeae is probably derived from the adjective graia "old woman", from the Proto-Indo-European language root *gere, "to grow old ", Proto Greek *grau-j, and later geras, keras, "gift of honour" in Mycenean Greek. [1] Another possibility is the relation with a word for "grey". [2]


They were one of several trios of archaic goddesses in Greek mythology. The Graeae were daughters of the sea-deities Phorcys and Ceto. Thus, they were among the Phorcydes, all of which were either aquatic (sea-based) or chthonic (earth-based) deities. The Graeae were sisters to the Gorgons.[3] The Graeae took the form of old grey-haired women; though, at times poets euphemistically described them as "beautiful." In other legends they are described as being half-swan.

Their age was so great that a human childhood for them was hardly conceivable. Their names were reported as well-clad Pemphredo (Πεμφρηδώ "alarm") and saffron-robed Enyo (Ἐνυώ "horror" the "waster of cities" who also had an identity separate from this sisterhood);[4] Pseudo-Apollodorus added Deino (Δεινώ "dread", the dreadful anticipation of horror) as a third.[5] Hyginus adds a fourth, Persis (Περσις "destroyer, slayer") or Perso (Περσώ).[6]

They shared one eye and one tooth, which they took turns using. By stealing their eye while they were passing it amongst themselves, the hero Perseus forced them to tell the whereabouts of the three objects needed to kill Medusa (in other versions the whereabouts of Medusa herself), by ransoming their shared eye for the information.[3] One might compare the Graeae with the three spinners of Destiny, (the Moirai); the northern European Norns; or the Baltic goddess Laima and her two sisters; though all are distinct trios.

Modern depictions[edit]


  1. ^ Beekes. Greek Etymological Dictionary. Entry 1531
  2. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ a b Harris, Stephen L., and Gloria Platzner. Classical Mythology: Images and Insights (Third Edition). California State University, Sacramento. Mayfield Publishing Company. 2000, 1998, 1995, pp. 273-274, 1039.
  4. ^ Hesiod. Theogony, 270-274
  5. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca ii.4.2; Pemphredo, sometimes also spelled Peuphredo (Πευφρηδώ) or Pephredo (Πεφρηδώ) (see M. Hofinger, Lexicon Hesiodeum cum Indice Inverso, p. 533.
  6. ^ Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface


External links[edit]