We derive the name of the month of May from this goddess who appears in both Greek and Roman legend.

A a Roman goddess she is the daughter of Atlas and Pleione, and the mother of Mercury by Jupiter.

In Greece, she was "grandmother," "midwife," or "wise one" (variant meanings of her name). Originally the goddess of the night sky, and mother to Hermes.

The Romans identified the Greek Maia with their fire-goddess of the same name; she, like Flora, ruled the forces of warmth and growth, including sexual heat.

Maia's festival was held on the first day of her month (May), a rite that still survives in the Christian dedication of May to Mary.


  1. A daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes (Table 25). Her mother was Pleione which meant that she was one of the Pleiades. There was another legend which claims that her mother was Sterope. Maia was a Nymph of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and there is an affair with Zeus she conceived Hermes. Her legend is very insubstantial. Apart from her link with Hermes she only appears as Arcas' nurse after the death of Callisto.

  2. In very early times in Rome there was a goddess called Maia who probably had no connection, originally, with the Greek Maia. She appears to have been the supporter of Vulcan the fire god, to whom the month of May was particularly dedicated. After the introduction of Hellenism she became identified with her namesake and was said to be the mother of Mercury.


Table of Sources:
- Hom. Od. 14,435;
- Hesiod, Theog. 948;
- Serv. on Virgil, Aen. 8,130;
- schol. on Pind. Nem. 2,10 (16);
- Aeschylus, Choeph. 813;
- Diod. Sic. 3,60;
- Apollod. Bibl. 3,10,1-3; 3,8,2.
- Aul. Gell. Noct. Att. 13,23,1ff.;
- Censor. De Die Nat. 22,12;
- Macrob, Sat. 1,12,19;
- Joann. Lyd. De Mensibus 4,52.

Ma"i*a (?), n. [From L. Maia, a goddess.] Zool. (a)

A genus of spider crabs, including the common European species (Maia squinado).


A beautiful American bombycid moth (Eucronia maia).


© Webster 1913.

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