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Galatea (Γαλάτεια‎, perhaps “milk-white”), name of a sea-nymph, first in Homer (Il. 18. 45); her legend was apparently first told by Philoxenus (1) (see PLG4 3.609 ff.). Polyphemus (see cyclopes) loved her, and wooed her uncouthly; the story is a favourite especially with pastoral writers (Theoc. Id. 6, 11; Bion, fr. 16 Gow OCT Buc. Gr.; Moschus, Ἐπιτάφιος Βίωνος‎ (Lament for Bion (2), in Gow OCT Buc. Gr, 140 ff., lines 58 ff.; Verg. Ecl. 9.39 ff.; cf. 2.19 ff.; 7.37 ff.; but particularly Ov. Met. 13.738 ff.). In the last, the earliest surviving passage that adds anything important to the story, Galatea loved a youth, Acis, son of Faunus (Pan?) and a river-nymph. Together they listened in hiding to Polyphemus's love-song, but when he had finished he rose to go and caught sight of them. Galatea dived into the sea, but Polyphemus pursued Acis and hurled a huge rock at him. As it fell on him and crushed him, Galatea turned him into a river, which bore his name ever after. The whole may well be a local Sicilian tale. The resemblance between Galatea's name and Γαλάτης‎, a Gaul, seems to underlie a less-known version in which she finally accepted Polyphemus's attentions and had by him a son, Galas or Galates, ancestor of the Gauls (see App. Ill. 2)—mere pseudo-historical or pseudo-mythical aetiology. The love story appears in Roman art, especially wall painting (LIMC 5. 1 (1990), 1000–1005).


Grimal, Pierre. “Galatea.” In The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, translated by A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop, 168–169. New York: Blackwell, 1985.Find this resource:

    Gutzwiller, Kathryn J. TheocritusPastoral Analogies: The Formation of a Genre. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999. See especially 105–115.Find this resource:

      Harder, Ruth E. “Galatea.” In Brill’s New Pauly, edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill Online, 2015.Find this resource:

        Mack, Sara. “Acis and Galatea or Metamorphosis of Tradition.” Arion, ser. 3, 6.3 (1999): 51–67.Find this resource:

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