- Pronunciation: oh-see-uh-nuh-s
- Origin: Arcadia, Greece
- Role: Titan of the Seas
- Parents: Uranus and Gaia
- Wife: Tethys
- Symbol: Serpent, fish
Who Is Oceanus?
Long before the Olympian gods ruled ancient Greece the creation of the universe took place. The primal gods of the sky and the earth, Uranus and Gaea, had 12 Titan children – the Elder gods. Oceanus was the Titan god of the river Okeanos, which was believed to encircle the world and connect the earth to the heavens and the underworld.
He married his sister Tethys, the goddess of fresh water. The couple had 3000 children called the Oceanids. They are the gods and goddesses of all of the rivers, seas, streams and estuaries on the earth. Oceanus and Tethys were so fertile, in fact, they feared their rapid proliferation would cause flooding if it continued so they eventually divorced to solve the problem.
The Titans were powerful giant gods that ruled the world before the Olympian gods took over. They had incredible strength, magical powers and great knowledge. Also known as the Elder gods, their home was at Mount Othrys. The first of the gods born of Chaos were the primal Gaea (earth) and Sky (Uranus). Their children were the mighty Titans and Titanesses.
Cronus, the brother of Oceanus, coordinated a plot with his mother and castrated his father Uranus so he could take over the rule of the cosmos, but Oceanus did not participate. He also seemingly had no interest in the Titanomachy war, the battle of the Olympians and Titans for rulership of the cosmos, and didn’t fight alongside his Titan brothers. This saved him from the punishment received later by the others: imprisonment in Tartarus, the underworld.
At first, Oceanus ruled over the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Later, when the Greeks learned of the Atlantic Ocean and other bodies of salt water his role expanded. When the Olympians took over, Poseidon became the ruler of the Mediterranean Sea.
Family of Oceanus
The sister and wife of Oceanus is Tethys. Her name is derived from the Greek word têthê, meaning nurse. The Oceanids were their 3000 nymph daughters who were the overseers of all of the waters in the world.
Some infamous Oceanids include Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, Metis, who Zeus who made pregnant with the goddess Athena and then swallowed, and Doris, the mother of the 50 Nereids.
Islands of Oceanus
Many islands and shores fell under the domain of Oceanus. The most famous of all is Elysian Fields, the island of the blessed where the souls of the best of the mortals were sent to live out their eternity in peace and tranquility. It was located somewhere along the deep shores in the underworld. The island of Sarpedon, home of Medusa and her two monstrous sister Gorgons, was surrounded by the waters of Oceanus somewhere far in the west of the world near the mythical Garden of Hesperides, Hera’s garden of magical golden apples and immortality.
On the northern stream was the land of the sacred race of Hyperboreans. They lived in a season of perpetual springtime, free of the war and disease that troubled the rest of the world.
While Oceanus has been depicted as a giant bearded god with scales, with dolphins leaping from his head and fish swimming in his wavy hair, he is truly considered to be an abstract force of nature and the divine personification of the sea. At that time, the seas included all of the world’s oceans and the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
In reference to the many ancient cities along the coastline of the Mediterranean, philosopher Plato once referred to the Greek people as frogs sitting around a pond. The many sea gods in mythology reflect the importance of water to ancient societies. The rule of the Titans came to an end, but the legacy of Oceanus, the first of god of the sea, and ruler of the river Okeanos, continues through the many legends that followed him and his 3000 daughters.