Nicaea (mythology)

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huntress and naiad nymph of Astacia
AbodeNicaea or Lake Ascanius in Bithynia
Personal information
ParentsSangarius and Cybele

In Greek mythology, Nicaea or Nikaia (Ancient Greek: Νικαια) was a naiad nymph ("the Astakid nymph", as referred to by Nonnus) of the springs or fountain of the Greek colony of Nikaia in Bithynia (northwestern Anatolia) or else the goddess of the adjacent lake Askanios (Ascanius). She was the daughter of the river-god Sangarius and Cybele. By the god of wine, Dionysus, she mothered Telete (consecration).


She was a devotee of the goddess Artemis. When a shepherd, Hymen, pursued Nicaea, she killed him with an arrow to the heart. This enraged Eros, who inspired Dionysus to fall in love with her. Dionysus pursued her for a long while. When she continued to spurn his advances, Dionysus intoxicated her and then raped her while she slept (the god of wine aided by Hypnos, god of sleep).

Nicaea conceived Telete from this union; after her daughter's birth, Nicaea attempted to hang herself. Although surviving stories do not tell if she made any further suicide attempts, she did live to see Aura, another nymph raped and impregnated by Dionysus in the same manner, going into labor and giving birth to Iacchus, as described in Nonnus’s Dionysiaca.

Dionysus named the city Nicaea after her.

Nonnus' account[edit]

The following excerpts recounts the story of Nicaea and her rape by Dionysus, also included was the unfortunate plight of Aura from the same god:

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 567 ff (translated Rouse) (Greek epic c. 5th AD):

He [Dionysos] remembered the bed of the Astakid Nymphe [i.e. Nikaia (Nicaea)] long before, how he had wooed the lovely Nymphe with a cunning potion and made sleep his guide to intoxicated bridals.

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 811 ff:

Nikaia (Nicaea), the leader of the rites of Lyaios (Lyaeus) [Dionysos], seeing the pain and disgrace of distracted Aura [who was pregnant after her violation by Dionysos], spoke to her thus in secret pity: "Aura, I have suffered as you have [i.e. Nikaia had also been violated by Dionysos in a drunken sleep], and you too lament you your maidenhood. But since you carry in your womb the burden of painful childbirth, endure after the bed to have the pangs of delivery, endure to give your untaught breast to babes. Why did you also drink wine, which robbed me of my girdle? Why did you also drink wine, Aura, until you were with child? You also suffered what I suffered, you enemy of marriage; then you also have to blame a deceitful sleep sent by the Erotes (Loves), who are friends of the marriage. One fraud fitted marriage on us both, one husband was Aura's and made virgin Nikaia the mother of children. No more have I a beast-slaying bow, no longer as once, I draw my bowstring and my arrows; I am a poor woman working at the loom, and no longer a wild Amazon." She spoke, pitying Aura's labour to accomplish the birth, as one who herself had felt the pangs of labour.

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 865 ff:

Dionysos called Nikaia' (Nicaea), his own Kybeleid (Cybelid) Nymphe, and smiling pointed to Aura still unbraiding her childbed; proud of his late union with the lonely girl, he said : "Now at last, Nikaia, you have found consolation for your love. Now again Dionysos has stolen a marriage bed, and ravished another maiden: woodland Aura in the mountains, who shrank once from the very name of love, has seen a marriage the image of yours. Not you alone had sweet sleep as a guide to love, not you alone drank deceitful wine which stole your maiden girdle; but once more a fountain of nuptial wine has burst from a new opening rock unrecognized, and Aura drank. You who have learnt the throes of childbirth in hard necessity, by Telete (Consecration) your dance weaving daughter I beseech you, hasten to lift up my son, that my desperate Aura may not destroy him with daring hands for I know she will kill one of the two baby boys in her intolerable frenzy, but do you help Iakkhos (Iacchus): guard the better boy, that your Telete may be the servant of son and father both." With this appeal Bakkhos (Bacchus) departed, triumphant and proud of his two Phrygian marriages, with the elder wife and the younger bride . . . [Artemis rescued one of the sons of Aura before she could kill both her newborns and delivered him to Dionysos.] The father gave charge of his son [Iakkhos] to Nikaia the Nymphe as a nurse. She took him, and fed the boy, pressing out the life giving juice of her child nursing breasts from her teat, until he grew up.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Missing or empty |title= (help)