Triton

Triton is a mythological Greek god, the messenger of the deep. He is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Amphitrite, goddess of the sea. He is usually represented as a merman, having the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish.

Like his father, he carried a trident. However, Triton’s special attribute was a twisted conch shell, on which he blew like a trumpet to calm or raise the waves. Its sound was so terrible, that when loudly blown, it put the giants to flight, who imagined it to be the roar of a mighty wild beast (Hyginus, Poet. astronom. ii. 23).

According to Hesiod‘s Theogony, Triton dwelt with his parents in a golden palace in the depths of the sea. The story of the Argonauts places his home on the coast of Libya. When the Argo was driven ashore on the Lesser Syrtes, the crew carried the vessel to Lake Tritonis, whence Triton, the local deity, guided them across to the Mediterranean (Apollonius Rhodius iv. 1552).

Triton was the father of Pallas and foster parent to the goddess Athena. Pallas was killed by Athena during a fight between the two goddesses. Triton also had a brother named Armanius, Poseidon’s favorite son. [1]. Triton is also sometimes cited as the father of Scylla by Lamia. Triton might be multiplied into a host of Tritones, daimones of the sea.

Gold armband with Triton holding a putto, Greek, 200 BCE (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Gold armband with Triton holding a putto, Greek, 200 BCE (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Triton also appeared in Roman myths and epics. In the Aeneid, Misenus, the trumpeter of Aeneas, challenged Triton to a contest of trumpeting. The god flung him into the sea for his arrogance.

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[edit] Tritones

Over time, Triton’s name and image came to be associated with a class of merman-like creatures, the Tritones, which could be male or female, and usually formed the escort of marine divinities. Ordinary Tritons were described in detail by the traveller Pausanias (ix. 21).[2] A variety of Triton, the Centauro-Triton or Ichthyocentaur (“Fish-centaur”), was described[citation needed] as having the forefeet of a horse in addition to the human body and the fish tail. It is probable that the idea of Triton owes its origin to the Phoenician fish-deities.

[edit] Triton fountains

The figure of a Triton is a natural conception for a fountain, as Romans realized when they came to incorporate fountains in gardens in the first century BCE, Sextus Propertius described “The sound of water which splashes all round the basin, when the Triton suddenly pours forth a fountain from his lips.”[3] Bernini‘s Fontana del Tritone (1642-43)is a feature of the Roman cityscape.

[edit] Triton since the Renaissance

Among the things named after Triton include Triton, the largest moon of the planet Neptune. This name is symbolic, as Neptune is the Roman name for Triton’s father.

In Wordsworth‘s sonnet “The World is Too Much With Us” (ca 1802, published 1807), the poet regrets the prosaic humdrum modern world, yearning for

glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Triton is also associated in modern industry with tough, hard-wearing machines such as Ford‘s Triton Engines and Mitsubishi‘s Triton pickup trucks.

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