Dryad , Evelyn Morgan.

Dryads (Δρυάδες) are tree spirits in Greek mythology. Technically speaking, dryads are the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general. Drys in Greek signifies 'oak,' from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- 'tree' or 'wood.'

The nymphs of ash trees were called the Meliai. The ash-tree sisters tended the infant Zeus in Rhea's Cretan cave. Rhea gave birth to the Meliai after being made fertile by the cast-away genitals of Ouranos.

If the nymphs lived in the trees, they were referred to as hamadryads, like Atlantia one of the wives of Danaus; otherwise they were simply dryads. Dryads, like all nymphs, were supernaturally long-lived, but if the tree died, the dryad associated with it died as well. For that reason, dryads and the Greek gods punished any mortals who harmed trees without first propitiating the tree-nymphs.

In the Greek myth of Aristaeus and the bees, in order to renew his declining swarm, Aristaeus is instructed by Cyrene to set up four altars in the woods to the dryads, companions of Eurydice, whose death he had inadvertently caused, and make a sacrifice of four young bulls and four heifers, from whose putrifying carcasses the new swarms of bees arose. Virgil, Georgics, iv.317ff.

Apollo and Daphne

See also the myth of Daphne, who was pursued by Apollo and became a dryad associated with the laurel.


Jean Sibelius, (1865-1957). The Dryad


  • Graves, Robert, 1960. The Greek Myths, 82.i; 86.2
  • Burkert, Walter, 1985. Greek Religion (Cambridge:Harvard University Press)


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