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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).
"Grey ones" redirects here. For the J. B. Priestly short story, see The Other Place (Priestley).
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, were three sisters 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 γραῖα graia "old woman", derived from the PIE root *ǵerh2-/*ǵreh2-, "to grow old" via Proto-Greek *gera-/grau-iu.[1]


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.[2] 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);[3] Pseudo-Apollodorus added Deino (Δεινώ "dread", the dreadful anticipation of horror) as a third.[4] Hyginus adds a fourth, Persis (Περσις "destroyer, slayer"; for this last others say Dino) or Perso (Περσώ).[5]

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.[2] 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.

Family Tree[edit]

Main article: Greek sea gods
Pontus Thalassa
Nereus Thaumas Phorcys Ceto Eurybia The Telchines Halia Aphrodite [6]
The Phorcydes
Echidna The Gorgons The Graeae Ladon The Hesperides Scylla[7] The Sirens 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.
  • Their 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. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 285.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Hesiod. Theogony, 270-274.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Various Greek myths account for Scylla's origins and fate. According to some such as Eustathius, she was one of the children of Phorcys and Ceto. Other sources, including Stesichorus, cite her parents as Triton and Lamia. Hyginus says Scylla was the daughter of the river god Crataeis.
  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]