TRITON

ΤΡΙΤΩΝ

The Birth of Venus (detail of Triton), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), French Academic painter

The Birth of Venus (detail of Triton and Nereids),
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

1. A son of Poseidon and Amphitrite (or Celaeno), who dwelt with his father and mother in a golden palace on the bottom of the sea, or according to Homer (Il. xiii. 20) at Aegae. (Hes. Theog. 930, &c.; Apollod. i. 4. § 6.) Later writers describe this divinity of the Mediterranean as riding over the sea on horses or other sea-monsters. (Ov. Heroid. vii. .50; Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 28; Claudian, xxviii. 378.) Sometimes also Tritons are mentioned in the plural, and as serving other marine divinities in riding over the sea. Their appearance is differently described, though they are always conceived as presenting the human figure in the upper part of their bodies, while the lower part is that of a fish. Pausanias (ix. 21. § 1) says : the Tritons have green hair on their head, very fine and hard scales, breathing organs below their ears, a human nose, a broad month, with the teeth of animals, sea-green eyes, hands rough like the surface of a shell, and instead of feet, a tail like that of dolphins. (Comp. Orph, Hymn 23. 4 ; Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 4, 7.) The chief characteristic of Tritons in poetry as well as in works of art is a trumpet consisting of a shell (concha), which the Tritons blow at the command of Poseidon, to soothe the restless waves of the sea (Ov. Met. i. 333), and in the fight of the Gigantes this trumpet served to frighten the enemies. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 23; comp. Paus. viii. 2. § 3; Mosch. ii. 20; Virg. Aen. x. 209, &c.; Ov. Met. ii. 8; Plin. H. N. ix. 5.) Tritons were sometimes represented with two horse's feet instead of arms, and they were then called Centaur-Tritons or Ichthyocentaurs. (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 34, 886, 892.) Their figures are frequently mentioned in works of art, as in the sanctuary of Poseidon on the Corinthian isthmus (Paus. ii. 1. § 7), in the temple of Dionysus at Tanagra (ix. 20. § 4; comp. Aelian, H. A. xiii. 21), in the pediment of the temple of Saturn at Rome. (Macrob. Sat. i. 8.)

2. The god of lake Tritonis in Libya, is, like Glaucus, a marine divinity connected with the story of the Argonauts. (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1552, &c. ; Orph. Argon. 337; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 34, 754 ; Herod. iv. 179.)