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This article is about Greek mythology. For the British organization, see Graeae Theatre Company.
Not to be confused with Graea.
"Deino" redirects here. For the Pokémon, see Deino (Pokémon). For the prefix "deino-", see List of commonly used taxonomic affixes.
Perseus Returning the Eye of the Graiai by Henry Fuseli

In Greek mythology the Graeae (/ˈɡri/; English translation: "old women", "grey ones", or "grey witches"; alternatively spelled Graiai (Γραῖαι) and Graiae), also called the Grey Sisters, and the Phorcides ("daughters of Phorcys"),[1] were three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them. Their names were Deino (or Dino), Enyo, and Pemphredo (or Pephredo).


The word Graeae is probably derived from the adjective γραῖα graia "old woman", derived from the PIE root *ǵerh2-/*ǵreh2-, "to grow old" via Proto-Greek *gera-/grau-iu.[2]


The Graeae were daughters of the sea-deities Phorcys and Ceto, (from which their name the Phorcydes derived), and sisters to the Gorgons.[3] The Graeae took the form of old, grey-haired women. Their age was so great that a human childhood for them was hardly conceivable. In Theogony, however, Hesiod ironically describes the Graeae as being "fair-cheeked." In Prometheus Bound, the Graeae are described as being half-swan.

Hesiod names only two Graeae, the "well-clad" Pemphredo (Πεμφρηδώ "alarm") and the "saffron-robed" Enyo (Ἐνυώ "horror" the "waster of cities" who also had an identity separate from this sisterhood).[4] Pseudo-Apollodorus lists Deino (Δεινώ "dread", the dreadful anticipation of horror) as a third.[5] Calling them "Phorcides," Hyginus, in addition to Pemphredo and Enyo, adds Persis noting that "for this last others say Dino".[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]

The Graeae are similar to the Greek Moirai, the northern European Norns, the Roman Parcae, the Slavic Sudice, the Celtic Morrigan, and the Baltic goddess Laima and her two sisters. The Three Witches from the play MacBeth by William Shakespeare are also quite similar to the three Graeae. Nonetheless, all of these different groups of triple goddesses are distinct entities.

Family Tree[edit]

Main article: Greek sea gods
Pontus Thalassa
Nereus Thaumas Phorcys Ceto Eurybia The Telchines Halia Aphrodite [7]
Echidna The Gorgons The Graeae Ladon The Hesperides Thoösa
Stheno Deino
Euryale Enyo
Medusa[8] Pemphredo

Modern depictions[edit]

  • In Claimed by Shadow, Hunt the Moon, and Ride the Storm, the second, fifth and eighth Cassandra Palmer novels, the Graeae are depicted as doddering old women who can transform in an instant to protect the heroine.
  • In the video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, there is a trio of old, powerful, mystical hags living in the bog who are called The Crones.
  • In the video game Pandora's Tower, the old woman helping Ende and Ceres.
  • In the video game Titan Quest: Immortal Throne, the player has to kill the Graeae in order to give their eye to Medea.
  • In the film Clash of the Titans (and its 2010 remake) the Graeae are called the "Stygian Witches".
  • In The Sea of Monsters, the second Percy Jackson & the Olympians novel, the "Grey Sisters" are taxi drivers operating in the New York area named Anger, Tempest, and Wasp.
  • In the 1988 video game King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the player must steal the eye from the three witches in order to barter it for a puzzle piece that is critical to solving the game.
  • The single eye of the Graeae is depicted as an aspect of the Fates in the 1997 Disney film Hercules.
  • The Grey Sisters appear in an episode of the second series of Atlantis. Jason visits the seers to find out how to save Ariadne's life. He uses exactly the same method of stealing their eye as they are passing it between them before ransoming it for information as Perseus does in the original myths.
  • In the NES videogame The Battle of Olympus


  1. ^ Sommerstein, p. 260, in Aeschylus. Fragments; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 790–800 (pp. 530–531) with n. 94; Apollodorus, 1.2.6; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface.
  2. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 285.
  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 2.4.2; Pemphredo, sometimes also spelled Peuphredo (Πευφρηδώ) or Pephredo (Πεφρηδώ) (see M. Hofinger, Lexicon Hesiodeum cum Indice Inverso, p. 533.
  6. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface.
  7. ^ There are two major conflicting stories for Aphrodite's origins: Hesiod (Theogony) claims that she was "born" from the foam of the sea after Cronus castrated Uranus, thus making her Uranus' daughter; but Homer (Iliad, book V) has Aphrodite as daughter of Zeus and Dione. According to Plato (Symposium 180e), the two were entirely separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos.
  8. ^ Most sources describe Medusa as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, though the author Hyginus (Fabulae Preface) makes Medusa the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto.


External links[edit]