Photo by Maxim Gustarev.

Most of us are acquainted with the foremost Olympian Gods and Goddesses of Greek mythology. Many of the allegories center around these major deities, but there is a lot more to the Greek mythologies than that. Achlys is an example of a goddess that few know about, but she does have a place in legends. She is considered to be primordial goddess and is known to represent both misery and sadness. In addition to being the spirit of desolation and sorrow, Achlys may have been the goddess of deadly poisons. Nonnus, recounts how Hera the Olympian Queen of the Gods went to Achlys for poisonous flowers that turned the nurses of Dionysus into horned centaurs. As mentioned above, Achlys was not an Olympic god but a primordial spirit – a daimona, who existed before the Titans and the Olympians warred for control of the world. There are two possibilities for her origin. According to some of the oldest cosmogonies, she was the Eternal Night that existed even before Chaos, from whom all other primordial beings descended. This origin story would make her the most ancient of the gods. Alternatively, Achlys was the daughter of Nyx, the primordial goddess of the night. Nyx birthed a number of dark spirits, including the three Fates, the Hesperides, and the Keres. Achlys appears in two key sources: Hesiod’s The Shield of Heracles and Nonnus’s Dionysiaca. Achlys is an unpleasant figure in all descriptions, which is unsurprising for a goddess known to represent wretchedness and poison. According to Hesiod, she was pictured on the shield of Heracles in chilling detail: “And beside the Keres and the Fates was standing Akhlys, dismal and dejected, green and pale, dirty-dry, fallen in on herself with hunger, knee-swollen, and the nails were grown long on her hands, and from her nostrils the drip kept running, and off her cheeks the blood dribbled to the ground, and she stood there, grinning forever, and the dust that had gathered and lay in heaps on her shoulders was muddy with tears.”

Story by Annika Sharber.