Nemesis in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
（*Ne/mesis), is most commonly described as a daughter of
Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus (Hygin.
Fab. praef.) or of Oceanus (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 88; Paus. 1.33.3,
7.5.1). Nemesis is a personification of the moral reverence
for law, of the natural fear of committing a culpable
action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is
mentioned along with Αἰδώς, i. e. Shame (Hes. Th. 223, Op.
et D. 183). In later writers, as Herodotus and Pindar,
Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human
affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions
or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed; she measures
out happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with
too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her
with losses and sufferings, in order that he may become
humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human
happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from
a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human
happiness (Hdt. 1.34, 3.40; Pind. Ol. viii. in fin., Pytth.
10.67). Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours
conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortune, and from this idea
lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing
power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or
later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. 4.1043;
Sophocl. Philoct. 518; Eur. Orest. 1362; Catull. 50, in
fin.; Orph. Hymn. 60). The inhabitants of Smyrna worshipped
two Nemeses, both of whom were daughters of Night (Paus.
7.5.1). She is frequently mentioned under the surnames
Adrasteia [ADRASTEIA, No. 2] and Rhamnusia or Rhamnusis, the
latter of which she derived from the town of Rhamnus in
Attica, where she had a celebrated sanctuary (Paus. 1.33.2).
Besides the places already mentioned she was worshipped at
Patrae (Paus. 7.20, in fin.) and at Cyzicus (Strab. p. 588).
She was usually represented in works of art as a virgin
divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have
resembled Aphrodite, whereas in the later ones she was more
grave and serious, and had numerous attributes. But there is
an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at
Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and
the Dioscuri sprang, whence Helena herself is called
Rhamnusis (Callim. Hymnn. in Dian. 232; Paus. 1.33.7). On
the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented
leading Helena to Nemesis (Paus. l.c.) Respecting the
resemblance between her statue and that of Aphrodite, see
Plin. Nat. 36.4; comp. Paus. 1.33.2; Strab. pp. 396, 399.
The Rhamnusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an
apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a
crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes
she appears in a pensive standing attitude, holding in her
left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her
right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge. (Hirt, Mythol.
Bilderb. p. 97, &c.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman
biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.