The Charites (The Three Graces)
The Charites (Three Graces) were reputed to be the essence of beauty, charm, and grace and were associated with the Nine Muses, who presided and inspired arts and sciences.
The Charites were three goddesses, who were sisters between them: Aglaia (Αγλαια Brightness), Euphrosyne (Ευφροσυνη Joyfulness), and Thalia (Θαλια Bloom).
The character and nature of the Charites are sufficiently expressed by the names they bear: they were conceived as the goddesses who gave festive joy and enhanced the enjoyments of life.
"Kharites (Charites, Graces) three . . . Euphrosyne, lover of song, and Aglaia (Aglaea) revered, daughters of Zeus the all-highest . . . with Thalia, darling of harmony."
Pindar, Olympian Ode 14
They are said to be daughters of Zeus and Hera (or Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus) or of Helios and Aegle, a daughter of Zeus.
The Charites were also joined in the banquets, celebrations by the Horae who were the keepers of the gates to Mount Olympus.
Aglaia was the charis goddess of beauty, adornment, splendor and glory. Aglaia was a the wife of the god Hephaistos and like her she represented the creation of objects of beauty and artistic adornment.
"Kharis (Charis) of the shining veil . . . the lovely goddess the renowned strong-armed one [Hephaistos] had married."
Homer, Iliad 18. 382
Euphrosyne was the charis goddess of good cheer, joy, mirth and merriment.
Thalia was the charis goddess of festive celebrations and rich and luxurious banquets.
Frequently the Graces were taken as goddesses of charm or beauty in general and hence were associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Peitho, her attendant; and Hermes, a fertility and messenger god.
As attendants of Aphrodite they were goddesses of personal beauty and the adornments which enhanced this: makeup, oils, perfumes, fine clothing and jewellery.
"She [Aphrodite] went to Kypros (Cyprus), to Paphos, wher her precinct is and fragrant altar, and passed into her sweet-smelling temple. There she went in and put to the glittering doors, and there the Kharites (Charites, Graces) bathed her with heavenly oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods–oil divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance."
Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite
Sometimes they were depicted as companions of Apollo and the Muses:
"There [on Olympos] are their [the Muses’] bright dancing-places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Kharites (Charites, Graces) . . . live in delight."
Hesiod, Theogony 53
The Charitesia were annual competitions and games in honor of the Graces. There were athletic competitions, literary, musical and dramatic contests (which took place in the theater). The Charitesia festival was held at Orchomenos near the modern town of Kalpaki.
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