Triton - Encyclopedia

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TRITON, in Greek mythology, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, the personification of the roaring waters. According to Hesiod (Theog. 930), he dwelt with his parents in a golden palace in the depths of the sea. The story of the Argonauts places his home on the coast of Libya. When the Argo was driven ashore on the Lesser Syrtes the crew carried the vessel to Lake Tritonis, whence Triton, the local deity, guided them across to the Mediterranean (Apollonius Rhodius iv. 1552). He was represented as human down to the waist, with the tail of a fish. His special attribute was a twisted seashell, on which he blew to calm or raise the waves. Its sound was so terrible, when loudly blown, that it put the giants to flight, who imagined it to be the roar of a mighty wild beast (Hyginus, Poet. astronom. ii. 23). When Misenus, the trumpeter of Aeneas, challenged him to a contest of blowing, Triton in his jealousy flung him into the sea. In course of time Triton became the name for individuals of a class, like Pan and Silenus, and Tritons (male and female) are mentioned in the plural, usually as forming the escort of marine divinities. The beings called Centauro-Tritons or Ichthyocentaurs were of a triple nature, with the forefeet of a horse in addition to the human body and fish tail. Pausanias (ix. 21) gives a detailed description of the ordinary Triton. It is probable that the idea of Triton owes its origin to the Phoenician fish-deities.

See Preller, Griechische Mythologic (4th ed., 1894); F. R. Dressler, Triton and die Tritonen (Wurzen, 1892).

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