Myths and Folklore Wiki

Nemesis (Greek: νεμεσις, similar to νείμειν, meaning "to give what is due") in Greek mythology was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (pride).

She also called Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia ("the Goddess of Rhamnous") at her sanctuary at Rhamnous, north of Marathon. Another name for her is Adrasteia/Adrestia, meaning "the inescapable"

The Romans equated the Greek Nemesis as Invidia.

Myths & Legends

She brings vengeful, implacable justice, and specifically punishes pride in a karmic sort of way, but later came to be an avenger of crime, similar to Atë and the Erinyes. This is also how she appears in various Greek tragedies. Divine retribution is a major theme in the Hellenic world view, providing the unifying theme of the tragedies of Sophocles and many other literary works. Nemesis appears in a more concrete form in a fragment of the epic Cypria.

Her associate and sometimes sister, is Tyche. One of her attendants is Poena, the personification of pain.


She is personified as a remorseless goddess, and is frequently portrayed as a winged goddess wielding a whip or a dagger. In many depictions she is similar in appearance to various later goddesses, such as Cybele, Rhea, Demeter, Artemis, and even Aphrodite.

The poet Mesomedes wrote a hymn to Nemesis in the early second century AD, writing that she was a "winged balancer of life, dark-faced goddess" and mentioning her "adamantine bridles" that restrain "the frivolous insolences of mortals".

Later, as the maiden goddess of proportion and the avenger of crime, she has as attributes a measuring rod (tally stick), a bridle, scales, a sword, and a scourge, and she rides in a chariot drawn by griffins.

Worship in Rhamnous

As the "Goddess of Rhamnous", Nemesis was honored and placated in an archaic sanctuary in the isolated district of Rhamnous, in northeastern Attica. There she was a daughter of Oceanus, the primeval river-ocean that encircles the world. Pausanias noted her iconic statue there. It included a crown of stags and little Nikes and was made by Pheidias after the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), crafted from a block of Parian marble brought by the overconfident Persians, who had intended to make a memorial stele after their expected victory. Her cult may have originated at Smyrna.

Origin of the Name

The meaning of her name Nemesis originally meant the neutral distribution of fortune. Later it came to suggest the resentment or indignation of any person or event that would disturb this natural distribution, which would lead to a sense of justice to not leave such behavior unpunished. Some connect the name with "to feel just resentment". From the fourth century onward, Nemesis, as the just balancer of Fortune's chance, could be associated with Tyche.