, in Greek mythology
, the eldest of the Pleiades
, the seven daughters of Atlas
. She and her sisters, born on Mt Cyllene
, are sometimes called mountain goddesses. Maia was the oldest, most beautiful and shyest.
She was identified by the Romans with Maia Majesta, an old Italian goddess of spring, to whom a sacrifice was offered on the first of May by the priest of Vulcan.
In a cave of Cyllene Maia became by Zeus the mother of the god Hermes. The story is told in the Hymn to Hermes attributed to Homer.
After giving birth to the baby, Maia wrapped him in blankets and went to sleep. The infant Hermes crawled away to Thessaly, where he stole some of Apollo's cattle and invented a lyre. Maia refused to believe Apollo when he claimed Hermes was the thief and Zeus then sided with Apollo. Finally, Apollo exchanged the cattle for the lyre.
Maia also raised the infant Arcas to protect him from Hera, who had turned his mother, Callisto into a bear.
In Roman mythology, Maia was a goddess. The month of May was sacred to her; her name is the source of it. She may be equivalent to Maiesta.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's mythos, a Maia is one from the lesser kind of Ainur, beings of power which pre-date the creation of existence.
Maia is a city in Portugal.