Galatea, whose name means "milk white," was a sea nymph in Greek mythology. She was loved by the Cyclops* Polyphemus, an ugly giant with one eye in the middle of his forehead. But Galatea rejected him and instead fell in love with a youth named Acis. Polyphemus saw Acis with his beloved, chased the youth, and crushed him with an enormous stone. As Acis died, a stream of water burst forth from the stone and flowed down to the sea, where it mingled with the waves behind which Galatea had hidden herself. The story of Galatea pursued by Polyphemus appears in a Renaissance painting by Raphael.
In another legend, Galatea was a statue of a woman carved by the sculptor Pygmalion. After Pygmalion fell in love with his creation, the goddess Aphrodite* agreed to bring it to life.
See also Cyclopes; Nymphs; Pygmalion; Venus.
nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful