"After them dark Night, having lain with no one,
gave birth...to the Hesperides, who live beyond Okeanos
and keep the golden apples and the fruit-bearing trees."
(Hesiod, Theogony, 213-216)
However, other ancient sources state that the Hesperides were the offspring of quite different parents. Atlas and Hesperis, Atlas and Pleione, or even Ceto and Phorcys were all offered as possible parents to the Hesperides.
Despite the differing opinions about the ancestry of these nymphs, ancient authors agree that the Hesperides were important in Greek myth as the guardians of the tree from which the Golden Apples grew. And these were not just any apples, either - they were the fruit that the goddess Hera received as wedding a gift from Gaia (the Earth). Indeed, the golden apples appear in several myths, including the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes, and the legendary tale of the labors of Herakles.
The Hesperides lived together in a garden, along with the dragon Ladon. There are names associated with the individual nymphs, and they are often called Aigle, Arethusa, Erytheia, Hespera, and Hesperethusa. Together, the nymphs sang enchanting and beautiful songs.
The Hesperides in Art History
Gallery | For pictures and information about the Hesperides in art, visit the Mythography gallery!
Who's Who in Classical Mythology