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According to Aelian, Nerites was never mentioned by epic poets such as Homer and Hesiod, but was a common figure in the mariners' folklore. Aelian also cites two versions of the myth concerning Nerites, which are as follows.
In one of the versions, Aphrodite, even before her ascension from the sea to Olympus, fell in love with Nerites. When the time had come for her to join the Olympian gods, she wanted Nerites to go with her, but he refused, preferring to stay with his family in the sea. Even the fact that Aphrodite promised him a pair of wings did not make him change his mind. The scorned goddess then transformed him into a shellfish and gave the wings to her son Eros. Nerea, one of his sister nereids, found him and begged Poseidon to give him back his normal form. Poseidon accepted and returned Nerites to normal.
In the other version, Nerites was loved by Poseidon and answered his feelings. From their mutual love arose Anteros (personification of reciprocated love). Poseidon also made Nerites his charioteer; the boy drove the chariot astonishingly fast, to the admiration of various sea creatures. But Helios, for reasons unknown to Aelian's sources, changed Nerites into a shellfish. Aelian himself supposes that Helios might have wanted the boy for himself and was offended by his refusal. Like the first version, Nerea, found him and begged Poseidon to give him back his normal form. Poseidon took pity on her and returned Nerites to his original shape.
- Nerite, a family of sea snails named after this deity
- Aelian, On Animals, 14. 28
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