Nemesis

The Goddess of Divine Retribution in Greek Mythology

Nemesis, Roman marble from Egypt, 2nd century A.D. (Louvre)
Nemesis, Roman marble from Egypt, 2nd century A.D. (Louvre). Public Domain. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Definition

Nemesis is the goddess of divine retribution who punishes excessive pride, undeserved happiness, and the absence of moderation.

Nemesis Rhamnusia was honored with a sanctuary at Rhamnus in Attica from the 5th Century; thus, Nemesis is a cult goddess, but she is also a personification of the Greek noun nemesis 'distribution of what is due' from the verb nemo 'apportion'. She is "responsible for the vicissitudes of mortal life" and is associated with similar chthonic figures, the Moirai 'Fates' and Erinyes 'Furies'.

[Source: "The Hyperboreans and Nemesis in Pindar's 'Tenth Pythian.'" by Christopher G. Brown. Phoenix, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 95-107.]

Nemesis' parents are either Nyx (Night) alone, Erebos and Nyx, or Ocean and Tethys. [See The First Gods.] Sometimes Nemesis is the daughter of Dike. With Dike and Themis, Nemesis helps Zeus in the administration of justice.

Bacchylides says the 4 Telkhines, Aktaios, Megalesios, Ormenos, and Lykos, are Nemesis' children with Tartaros. She is sometimes considered the mother of Helen or of the Dioscuri, whom she hatched from an egg. Despite this, Nemesis is often treated as a virgin goddess. Sometimes Nemesis is similar to Aphrodite.

"Providence as a Successor to Nemesis, by Eugene S. McCartney (The Classical Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 6 (Nov. 16, 1931), p. 47) suggests that the Christian concept of Providence is a successor of Nemesis.

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Also Known As: Ikhnaiê, Adrêsteia, Rhamnousia

Common Misspellings: Nemisis

Examples

In the story of Narcissus, the goddess Nemesis is invoked to punish Narcissus for his frankly narcissistic behavior. Nemesis obliges by causing Narcissus to fall hopelessly in love with himself.

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Gill, N.S. "Nemesis." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/nemesis-in-greek-mythology-118499. Gill, N.S. (2017, February 11). Nemesis. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/nemesis-in-greek-mythology-118499 Gill, N.S. "Nemesis." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/nemesis-in-greek-mythology-118499 (accessed January 23, 2018).