In Greek mythology, a Charis (; Greek: , pronounced [k?áris]) or Grace is one of three or more minor goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility, together known as the Charites (?[k?árit?:s]) or Graces. The usual list, from oldest to youngest, (as given in Hesiod) is Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Good Cheer"), and Thalia ("Festivity"). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae, the "Graces". In some variants, Charis was one of the Graces and was not the singular form of their name.
Pausanias interrupts his Description of Greece (book 9.xxxv.1-7) to expand upon the various conceptions of the Graces that had developed in different parts of mainland Greece and Ionia:
"The Boeotians say that Eteocles was the first man to sacrifice to the Graces. Moreover, they are aware that he established three as the number of the Graces, but they have no tradition of the names he gave them. The Lacedaemonians, however, say that the Graces are two, and that they were instituted by Lacedaemon, son of Taygete, who gave them the names of Cleta ("Sound" or "Renowned") and Phaenna ("Light" or "Bright"). These are appropriate names for Graces, as are those given by the Athenians, who from of old have worshipped two Graces, Auxo ("Increase" or "Growth") and Hegemone ("Leader" or "Queen"), until Hermesianax added Peitho ("Persuasion") as a third. It was from Eteocles of Orchomenus that we learned the custom of praying to three Graces. And Angelion and Tectaus, sons of Dionysus, who made the image of Apollo for the Delians, set three Graces in his hand. Again, at Athens, before the entrance to the Acropolis, the Graces are three in number; by their side are celebrated mysteries which must not be divulged to the many. Pamphos ( or ) was the first we know of to sing about the Graces, but his poetry contains no information either as to their number or about their names. Homer (he too refers to the Graces) makes one the wife of Hephaestus, giving her the name of Charis ("Grace"). He also says that Sleep was a lover of Pasithea ("Hallucination"), and in the speech of Sleep there is this verse:
Verily that he would give me one of the younger Graces.
"Hence some have suspected that Homer knew of older Graces as well. Hesiod in the Theogony (though the authorship is doubtful, this poem is good evidence) says that the three Graces are daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, giving them the names of Aglaia, Euphrosyne and lovely Thalia. The poem of Onomacritus agrees with this account. Antimachus, while giving neither the number of the Graces nor their names, says that they are daughters of Aegle and the Sun. The elegiac poet Hermesianax disagrees with his predecessors in that he makes Persuasion also one of the Graces."Nonnus gives their three names as Pasithea, Peitho and Aglaia. Sostratus gives the names as Pasithea, Cale ("Beauty") and Euphrosyne; Pasithea for Aglaia and Cale for Thalia, Euphrosyne is unchanged.
The Charites were most commonly depicted in the sanctuaries of other gods, but they did have their own temples as well, and at least four temples exclusively to them are known from Greece. The two main cult centres of the Charites were the town of Orkhomenos (Orchomenus) in northern Boiotia, and the Aegean island of Paros.
There were temples to the Charites in Hermione, in Sparta and in Elis:
"There is also a sanctuary to the Kharites [at Elis, Elis]; the images are of wood, with their clothes gilded, while their faces, hands and feet are of white marble. One of them holds a rose, the middle one a die, and the third a small branch of myrtle. The reason for their holding these things may be guessed to be this. The rose and the myrtle are sacred to Aphrodite and connected with the story of Adonis, while the Kharites (Graces) are of all deities the nearest related to Aphrodite. As for the die, it is the plaything of youths and maidens, who have nothing of the ugliness of old age. On the right of the Kharites is an image of Eros, standing on the same pedestal."
The temple regarded as their perhaps most important was the Temple of the Charites in Orkhomenos, where their cult was thought to have originated:
"The Boiotians say that Eteokles [king of Orkhomenos, Boiotia] was the first man to sacrifice to the Kharites. Moreover, they are aware that he established three as the number of the Kharites, but they have no tradition of the names he gave them . . . It was from Eteokles of Orkhomenos that we learned the custom of praying to three Kharites. (trans. Jones) [...] At Orkhomenos [in Boiotia] is a sanctuary of Dionysos, but the oldest is one of the Kharites. They worship the stones most, and say that they fell for Eteokles out of heaven. The artistic images were dedicated in my time, and they too are of stone."
"Eteokles, one of those who reigned as king at Orkhomenos, who founded a temple of the Kharites, was the first to display both wealth and power; for he honored these goddesses either because he was successful in receiving graces, or in giving them, or both. For necessarily, when he had become naturally inclined to kindly deeds, he began doing honor to these goddesses; and therefore he already possessed this power."
On the representation of the Graces, Pausanias wrote,
"Who it was who first represented the Graces naked, whether in sculpture or in painting, I could not discover. During the earlier period, certainly, sculptors and painters alike represented them draped. At Smyrna, for instance, in the sanctuary of the Nemeses, above the images have been dedicated Graces of gold, the work of Bupalus; and in the Music Hall in the same city there is a portrait of a Grace, painted by Apelles. At Pergamus likewise, in the chamber of Attalus, are other images of Graces made by Bupalus; and near what is called the Pythium there is a portrait of Graces, painted by Pythagoras the Parian. Socrates too, son of Sophroniscus, made images of Graces for the Athenians, which are before the entrance to the Acropolis. Also, Socrates was known to have destroyed his own work as he progressed deeper into his life of philosophy and search of the conscious due to his iconoclastic attitude towards art and the like. All these are alike draped; but later artists, I do not know the reason, have changed the way of portraying them. Certainly to-day sculptors and painters represent Graces naked."
^Carr, Thomas Swinburne. A manual of classical mythology; or, A companion to the Greek and Latin poets, designed chiefly to explain words, phrases and epithets, from the fables and traditions to which they refer. p. 139 ISBN9781290153911
Nick Fisher, "Kharis, Kharites, festivals, and social peace in the classical Greek city," in Ralph M. Rosen and Ineke Sluiter (Eds), Valuing Others in Classical Antiquity (Leiden, Brill, 2010) (Mnemosyne Supplements, 323),