Libyan Guardian Spirits
Goddesses of the Wilds
THE TIMEOROI LIBYES were three goddess-nymph guardians of the wilds about Lake Tritonis in Libya (in North Africa). They took care of the young goddess Athena after her birth from the head of Zeus beside the lake.
The TImeoroi were perhaps Naiad-nymphs of the fresh-water springs of the region. They also appear to be connected somehow with Tritonis, goddess of the Libyan lake, and Pallas, the childhood companion of Athene.
LIBYA (Apollonius Rhodius 4.1307)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1307 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[The Argonauts were stranded in the Libyan desert :] As they wasted there in misery, they were observed with pity by the highborn Guardian Spirits (heroissai Timeoroi) that guard the Libyan shore. These were the ones who found Athene when she issued in her gleaming panoply from her Father's head and bathed her in the water of Trito. Now at high noon, when Libye (Libya) lay scorched under a burning sun, the came to Iason [Jason] and gently removed the cloak from his head. Iason looked up, but in awe of their divinity he turned his eyes aside. Then the Daimones, seeing that he was alone, spoke out and reproved him in friendly tones for lying there in such abandonment :‘Why this despair?’ they said. ‘Are you not the men who fetched the golden fleece? We know how you have roamed the world. We know of each heroic deed that you have done on land or sea. For we who speak to you as mortals do are goddesses, the highborn solitary Spirits of the Land (Theai Khthoniai heroissai), wardens (Timeoroi) and daughters of Libye. Up then! Banish your own despondency and rouse your men, remembering this. When Amphitrite has unyoked the horses from Poseidon's rolling chariot, you must repay your mother for what she suffered all the long time she bore you in her womb. Thus, you may yet return to the sacred land of Akhaia (Achaea).’
They spoke, and the next moment their place was empty, they were neither to be seen nor heard. Iason looked around him and sat up. ‘Glorious Spirits of the wilderness (Theai Eremonomoi),’ he cried, ‘be gracious to me! I do not fully understand your prophecy of our return, but I will assemble all my friends and tell them all, in the hope that we may find the clue and so be saved. Many heads are wiser than one.’ . . .
[Jason addresses the Argonauts :] ‘Listen, my friends, I have been visited in my distress by three goddesses. They wore goat-skin capes (sterphesin aigaiois) [i.e. like the aigis of Athene] reaching from neck to waist, and looked to me like young girls. Standing over me they removed the mantle from my head with gently hands and told me to get up and rouse you also. They said that when Amphitrite had unyoked the horses from Poseidon's rolling chariot we were to recompense our mother amply for what she had suffered all the long time she bore us in her womb. Now I admit that the meaning of this oracle eludes me. At the same time they told me they were divine Spirits (Timeoroi), wardens and daughters of Libye, and they professed to know all about us and our adventures on the sea and land. Then, in a moment, they were there no more; a kind of mist or cloud had come between us.’"
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.