Web Theoi
OKEANOS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Ωκεανος Ôkeanos Oceanus River Ocean
Ωγηνος Ωγην Ogênos, Ogên Ogenus, Ogen River Ocean
Hephaestus, Eileithyia, Tethys & Oceanus, Athenian
black- figure dinos C6th B.C., British Museum, London

OKEANOS (or Oceanus) was the Titan god or Protogenos (primeval deity) of the great earth-encircling river Okeanos, the font of all the earth's fresh-water: including rivers, wells, springs and rain-clouds. Okeanos was also the god who regulated the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies which were believed to emerge and descend into his watery realm at the ends of the earth. Okeanos' wife was Tethys, the nurse, who was probably thought to distribute his water to the earth via subterranean caverns. Their children were the Potamoi or River-Gods and Okeanides, nymphs of springs and fountains. Unlike his brother Titanes, Okeanos neither participated in the castration of Ouranos nor joined the battle against the younger Olympian gods. He was probably identical to Ophion, an elder Titan in the Orphic myths who ruled heaven briefly before being wrestled and cast into the Ocean stream by Kronos.

Okeanos was depicted in ancient Greek vase painting as a bull-horned god with the tail of a serpentine fish in place of legs, similar to his river-god sons. His usual attributes were a fish and serpent. In the Hellenistic era, Okeanos was redefined as the god of the newly accessible Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the old cosmological idea of a great, earth-encircling, fresh-water stream was discarded. In mosaic art he therefore appears simply as a sea-god or the sea personified, with crab-claw horns, and for attributes, a serpent, oar and school of fish. His wife Tethys, shown seated beside him, had wings on her brow, in the role of mother of rain-clouds.

PARENTS

[1.1] OURANOS & GAIA (Hesiod Theogony 133, Apollodorus 1.2, Diodorus Siculus 5.66.1)
[1.2] AITHER (or OURANOS) & GAIA (Hyginus Preface)

OFFSPRING

[1.1] THE OKEANIDES, THE POTAMOI (by Tethys) (Hesiod Theogony 133, Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 139, Hyginus Preface)
[1.2] THE POTAMOI (by Tethys) (Aeschylus Seven 304, Diodorus Siculus 4.69.1, Hyginus Preface, Nonnus Dionysiaca 23.280)
[1.3] THE POTAMOI (Homer Iliad 21.190, Philostratus Elder 2.8)
[1.4] THE OKEANIDES (by Tethys) (Apollodorus 1.8, Calimachus Hymns 3.40, Nonnus Dionysiaca 38.108)
[2.1] THE AURAI (Homer Odyssey 4.561)
[3.1] THE NEPHELAI (Aristophanes Clouds 264)
[4.1] THE KERKOPES (by Theia) (Homerica Cercopes Frag 1)
[5.1] TRIPTOLEMOS (by Gaia) (Pherecydes Frag, Apollodorus 1.32)
[6.1] THE LIMNAI (DNonnus ionysiaca 6.352)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

OCE′ANUS (Ôkeanos), the god of the river Oceanus, by which, according to the most ancient notions of the Greeks, the whole earth was surrounded. An account of this river belongs to mythical geography, and we shall here confine ourselves to describing the place which Oceanus holds in the ancient cosmogony. In the Homeric poems he appears as a mighty god, who yields to none save Zeus. (Il. xiv. 245, xx. 7, xxi. 195.) Homer does not mention his parentage, but calls Tethys his wife, by whom he had three daughters, Thetis, Eurynome and Perse. (Il. xiv. 302, xviii. 398, Od. x. 139.) His palace is placed somewhere in the west (Il. xiv. 303, &c.), and there he and Tethys brought up Hera, who was conveyed to them at the time when Zeus was engaged in the struggle with the Titans. Hesiod (Theog. 133, 337, &c., 349, &c.) calls Oceanus a son of Uranus and Gaea, the eldest of the Titans, and the husband of Tethys, by whom he begot 3000 rivers, and as many Oceanides, of whom Hesiod mentions only the eldest. (Comp. Apollod. iii. 8. § 1, 10. § 1.) This poet (Theog. 282) also speaks of sources of Oceanus. Representations of the god are seen on imperial coins of Tyre and Alexandria.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


PARENTAGE OF OCEANUS

Hesiod, Theogony 132 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"She [Gaia the Earth] lay with Ouranos (Sky) and bare deep-swirling Okeanos, Koios and Krios and Hyperion and Iapetos, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoibe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Kronos."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 2 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Ouranos (Sky) . . . fathered other sons on Ge (Earth), namely the Titanes : Okeanos, Koios, Hyperion, Kreios, Iapetos, and Kronos the youngest; also daughters called Titanides : Tethys, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoibe, Dione, and Theia."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 66. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"The Titanes numbered six men and five women, being born, as certain writers of myths relate, of Ouranos and Ge, but according to others, of one of the Kouretes and Titaia, from whom as their mother they derive the name they have. The males were Kronos, Hyperion, Koios, Iapetos, Krios and Okeanos, and their sisters were Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoibe and Tethys. [N.B. He omits Theia.] Each one of them was the discover of things of benefit to mankind, and because of the benefaction they conferred upon all men they were accorded honours and everlasting fame."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Aether and Terra (Earth) [were born various abstractions] . . . [From Caelum (Ouranos) and Terra (Gaia) were born ?] Oceanus, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus, the Titanes . . . Hyperion, and Polus [Koios], Saturnus [Kronos], Ops [Rhea], Moneta [Mnemosyne], Dione." [N.B. Hyginus' Preface survives only in summary. The Titanes should be listed as children of Ouranos (Caelum) and Gaia not Aither (Terra) and Gaia, but the notation to this effect seems to have been lost in the transcription.]


Oceanus, Tethys, Hephaestus | Greek vase painting
O1.1 OCEANUS,
HEPHAESTUS
Oceanus | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z35.1A OCEANUS
WITH OAR
Oceanus & Tethys | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z35.2 OCEANUS,
TETHYS
Oceanus & Tethys | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z35.4 OCEANUS,
TETHYS

THE CHILDREN OF OCEANUS

Hesiod, Theogony 337 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Tethys bore to Okeanos the swirling Potamoi (Rivers), Neilos, Alpheios, and deep-eddying Eridanos, Strymon and Maiandros, Istros of the beautiful waters, Phasis and Rhesos and silver-swirling Akheloios, Nessos and Rhodios, Heptaporos and Haliakmon, Grenikos and Aisepos, and Simoeis, who is godlike, Hermos and Peneios, and Kaikos strongly flowing, and great Sangarios, and Ladon, and Parthenios, Euenos and Ardeskos, and Skamandros, who is holy.
She [Tethys] brought forth also a race apart of daughters, who with lord Apollon and the Rivers have the young in their keeping all over the earth, since this right from Zeus is given them. They are Peitho, Admete, Ianthe and Elektra, Doris and Prymno and Ourania like a goddess, Hippo and Klymene, Rhodeia and Kallirhoe, Zeuxo and Klytia, and Idyia and Pasithoe, Plexaura and Galaxaura and lovely Dione, Melobosis and Thoe, and Polydora the shapely, Kerkeis of the lovely stature, and ox-eyed Plouto, Xanthe and Akaste, Perseis and Ianeira, Petraie the lovely, and Menestho, and Europa, Metis and Eurynome, Telesto robed in saffron, Khryseis, and Asia, and alluring Kalypso, Eudora and Tykhe, and Amphiro and Okyroe, and Styx, who among them all has the greatest eminence. Now these are the eldest of the daughters who were born to Tethys and Okeanos, but there are many others beside these, for there are three thousand light-stepping daughters of Okeanos scattered far and wide, bright children among the goddesses, and all alike look after the earth and the depths of the standing water."

Homerica, The Cercopes (from Suidas s.v. Kerkopes) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Kerkopes. These were two brothers living upon the earth who practised every kind of knavery . . . Their mother [was] a daughter of Memnon . . . The Kerkopes were sons of Theia and Okeanos."

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 136 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[The Okeanides] offspring of fruitful (polyteknos) Tethys and of him who with his sleepless current encircles the whole earth, children of your father Okeanos."

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 528 ff :
"[The Okeanides :] by the side of the ceaseless stream of Okeanos, my father."

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 304 ff :
"What more fertile plain will you find in place of ours [Thebes] . . . this deep-soiled land and the water of Dirke which is the most nourishing of the streams (potamoi) that earth-encircling (gaiaokhos) Poseidon [i.e. Okeanos] and Tethys' children pour forth."

Aristophanes, Clouds 264 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Comedy-Play:] Come, oh! Nephelai (Clouds), whom I adore, come and show yourselves to this man, whether you be resting on the sacred summits of Olympos, crowned with hoar-frost, or tarrying in the gardens of Okeanos, your father, forming sacred Choruses with the Nymphai."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 8 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Titanes had children. Those of Okeanos and Tethys were called Okeanides : Asia, Styx, Elektra, Doris, Eurynome, Amphitrite, and Metis."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 32 :
"But Pherekydes [poet C6th B.C.] says that he [the Eleusinian agricultural-hero Triptolemos] was born of Okeanos and Ge [i.e. from Water and Earth]."

Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 40 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And the maiden [Artemis] fared unto the white moutain of Krete leafy with woods; thence unto Okeanos; and she chose many Nymphai all nine years old, all maidens yet ungirdled. And the River Kairatos was glad exceedingly, and glad was Tethys that they were sending their daughters to be handmaidens to the daughter of Leto."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 69. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"To Okeanos and Tethys, so the myths relate, were born a number of sons who gave their names to Rivers (Potamoi), and among them was Peneios, from whom the river Peneios in Thessalia later got its name." [N.B. Diodorus rationalises the myth--the river-gods become men who give their names to rivers.]

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 72. 1 :
"According to the myths there were born to Okeanos and Tethys a number of children who gave their names to Rivers (Potamoi), and among their number were Peneios and Asopos."

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 8 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[The river] Meles through his son [Homer] will grant to the Peneios to be 'silver-eddied,' to the Titaresios to be 'nimble' and 'swift,' and to the Enipeus to be 'divine,' and to the Axios to be 'all-beautiful,' and he will also grant to the Xanthos to be born from Zeus, and to Okeanos that all Rivers spring from him."

Anonymous (perhaps Pamprepius of Panopolis), Fragments (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 140) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"A fountain-nymphe (nymphe pegaiê) . . . dear daughter of father Okeanos, queen of the plantation! How should I need your streams?"

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Oceanus and Tethys [were born] the Oceanides--namely yaea, Melite, Ianthe, Admete, Stilbo, Pasiphae, Polyxo, Eurynome, Euagoreis, Rhodope, lyris, Clytia, teschinoeno, clitenneste, Metis, Menippe, Argia. Of the same descent Rivers: Strymon, Nile, Euprhates, Tanais, Indus, Cephisus, Ismenus, Axenus, Achelous, Simois, Inachus, Alpheus, Thermodoon, Scamandrus, Tigris, Maeandrus, Orontes."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 9. 497 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Gods have loved their sisters; yes, indeed! Why Saturnus [Kronos] married Ops [Rhea], his kin by blood, and Oceanus Tethys . . . But the gods above are laws unto themselves."

Ovid, Fasti 5. 79 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Titan Tethys was once married to Oceanus, whose translucent waters scarf the broad earth. Their child Pleione couples with sky-lifting Atlas--so the story is--and bears the Pleiades."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6. 352 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The Limnai (Lakes), liquid daughters of Okeanos raised their surface."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 280 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[When Dionysos set the river Hydapses on fire :] Okeanos also cried out against Dionysos in menacing words, pouring a watery roar from his manystream throat, and eluging the shores of the world with the flood of words which issued from his everlasting mouth like a fountain : `O Tethys! Agemate and bedmate of Okeanos, ancient as the world, nurse of commingled waters, selfborn, loving mother of children, what shall we do? Now Rainy Zeus blazes in arms against me and your children. Even as Asopos found the father Zeus Kronion his destroyer, in the bastard shape of a bird, so Hydaspes has found Bakkhos the son.'"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 108 ff :
"Loudbooming Okeanos, girdled with the circle of the sky, who leads his water earth-encompassing round the turning point which he bathes, was joined in primeval wedlock with Tethys. The water bride-groom begat Klymene, fairest of the Neiades, whom Tethys nursed on her wet breast, her youngest, a maiden with lovely arms . . . Her father united the girl to the heavenly charioteer [Helios]. The lightfoot Horai (Hours) acclaimed Klymene’s bridal with Helios Phaesphoros (Lightbringer), the Nymphai Neides (Naiads) danced around; in a watery bridal-bower the fruitful maiden was wedded in a flaming union, and received the hot bridegroom into her cool arms . . . and Okeanos beside his bride Tethys sounded his song with all the fountains of his throat."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 142 ff :
"[Beroe goddess and city] star of the Lebanon country, yearsmate of Tethys, running side by side with Okeanos, who begat thee in his bed of many fountains when joined in watery union with Tethys--Beroe the same they named Amymone when her mother brought her forth on her bed in the deep waters!"


OCEANUS & THE GENESIS OF THE GODS

Okeanos was sometimes represented as the primordial waters from which the Earth and the cosmos arose.

Homer, Iliad 14. 200 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hera addresses Aphrodite :] Since I go now to the ends of the generous earth on a visit to Okeanos, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother who brought me up kindly in their own house, and cared for me and took me from Rheia, at that time when Zeus of the wide brows drove Kronos underneath the earth and the barren water. I shall go to visit these, and resolve their division of discord, since now for a long time they have stayed apart from each other and from the bed of love, since rancour has entered their feelings. Could I win over with persuasion the dear heart within them and bring them back to their bed to be merged in love with each other I shall be forever called honoured by them, and beloved."

Homer, Iliad 14. 300 ff :
"[Hera addresses Zeus :] I [Hera] am going to the ends of the generous earth, on a visit to Okeanos, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother, who brought me up kindly in their own house, and cared for me. I shall go to visit these, and resolve their division of discord, since now for a long time they have stayed apart from each other and from the bed of love, since rancour has entered their feelings."

Homer, Iliad 14. 244 ff :
"[Hypnos, god of sleep, addresses Hera :] Any other one of the gods, whose race is immortal, I would lightly put to sleep, even the stream of that River Okeanos, whence is risen the seed of all the immortals."

Aristophanes, Birds 685 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"The Immortals did not exist until Eros [Himeros] had brought together all the ingredients of the world, and from their marriage Ouranos (Heaven), Okeanos (Ocean), Ge (Earth) and the imperishable race of blessed gods (Theoi) sprang into being."

Plato, Theaetetus 152e (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"And on this subject [i.e. that all things are derived from flow and motion] all the philosophers . . . may be marshalled in one line--Protagoras and Herakleitos and Empedokles--and the chief poets in the two kinds of poetry, Epikharmos, in comedy, and in tragedy, Homer, who, in the line `Oceanus the origin of the gods, and Tethys their mother,' has said that all things are the offspring of flow and motion."

Orphic Hymn 83 to Oceanus (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Okeanos I call, whose nature ever flows, from whom at first both Gods and men arose."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 22. 280 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Tethys! Agemate and bedmate of Okeanos, ancient as the world, nurse of commingled waters, selfborn, loving mother of children."


Poseidon, Oceanus & Tethys | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z2.2 OCEANUS,
TETHYS, POSEIDON
Oceanus & Tethys | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z35.3 OCEANUS,
TETHYS
Oceanus | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z35.5A OCEANUS
WITH OAR
Oceanus, Perseus & Andromeda | Greco-Roman mosaic
Z47.9 OCEANUS,
PERSEUS

OCEANUS & THE WAR OF THE TITANES

Hesiod, Theogony 398 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Styx . . . was first to come to Olympos [to side with Zeus against the Titanes] as her own father [Okeanos] had advised her."

Pindar, Fragment 30 (trans. sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"First did the Moirai (Fates) in their golden chariot bring heavenly Themis, wise in counsel, by a gleaming pathway from the springs of Okeanos to the sacred stair of Olympos, there to be the primal bride of the Saviour Zeus." [N.B. During the Titan-War the female Titanes resided in the house of Okeanos, as did Hera and the goddesses.]

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 3 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Now Ge (Earth) . . . persuaded the Titanes to attack their father . . . So all of them except Okeanos set upon Ouranos (Sky)."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6. 155 ff :
"After the first Dionysos [Zagreus] had been slaughtered, Father Zeus ... attacked the mother of the Titanes [Gaia the Earth] with avenging brand, and shut up the murderers of horned Dionysos [the Titanes dismembered the godling Zagreus] within the gate of Tartaros [after a long war]: the trees blazed, the hair of suffering Gaia (Earth) was scorched with heat . . . Now Okeanos poured rivers of tears from his watery eyes, a libation of suppliant prayer. Then Zeus clamed his wrath at the sight of the scorched earth; he pitied her, and wished to wash with water the ashes of ruin and the fiery wounds of the land. Then Rainy Zeus covered the whole sky with clouds and flooded all the earth [in the Great Deluge of Deukalion]."


OCEANUS & THE CHAINING OF PROMETHEUS

In the play Prometheus Bound by Aiskhylos, the Titan Okeanos appears on the scene as a sympathetic fellow-Titan. His daughters, the Okeanides, formed the chorus of the play.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 286 - 397 (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Enter Oceanus on a winged steed.]
Okeanos : I have come to the end of a long journey in my passage to you, Prometheus [chained to a crag in the Kaukasos mountains], guiding by my own will, without a bridle, this swift-winged bird. For your fate, you may be sure, I feel compassion. Kinship, I think, constrains me to this; and, apart from blood ties, there is none to whom I should pay greater respect than to you. You shall know this for simple truth and that it is not in me to utter vain and empty words; come, tell me; what aid can I render you? For you shall never say that you have a friend more loyal than Okeanos.
Prometheus : Ha! What have we here? So then you too have come to stare upon my sufferings? How did you summon courage to quit the stream that bears your name and the rock-roofed caves you yourself have made and come to this land, the mother of iron? Is it that you have come to gaze upon my state and join your grief to my distress? Look upon me here--a spectacle, the friend of Zeus, who helped him to establish his sovereign power, by what anguish I am bent by him!
Okeanos : I see, Prometheus; and I want to give you the best advice, although you yourself are wily. Learn to know yourself and adapt yourself to new ways; for new also is the ruler among the gods. If you hurl forth words so harsh and of such whetted edge, perhaps Zeus may hear you, though throned far off, high in the heavens, and then your present multitude of sorrows shall seem but childish sport. Oh wretched sufferer! Put away your wrathful mood and try to find release from these miseries. Perhaps this advice may seem to you old and dull; but your plight, Prometheus, is only the wages of too boastful speech. You still have not learned humility, nor do you bend before misfortune, but would rather add even more miseries to those you have. Therefore take me as your teacher and do not add insult to injury, seeing that a harsh monarch now rules who is accountable to no one. So now I will depart and see whether I can release you from these sufferings. And may you hold your peace and be not too blustering of speech. Or, can it be that for all your exceeding wisdom, you do not know that chastisement is inflicted on a wagging tongue?
Prometheus : I envy you because you have escaped blame for having dared to share with me in my troubles. So now leave me alone and let it not concern you. Do what you want, you cannot persuade him; for he is not easy to persuade. Beware that you do not do yourself harm by the mission you take.
Okeanos : In truth, you are far better able to admonish others than yourself. It is by fact, not by hearsay, that I judge. So do not hold back one who is eager to go. For I am confident, yes, confident, that Zeus will grant me this favor, to free you from your sufferings.
Prometheus : But you are not inexperienced, and do not need me to teach you. Save yourself, as you know best; while I exhaust my present lot until the time comes when the mind of Zeus shall abandon its wrath.
Okeanos : Do you not know then, Prometheus, that words are the physicians of a disordered temper?
Prometheus : If one softens the soul in season, and does not hasten to reduce its swelling rage by violence.
Okeanos : What lurking mischief do you see when daring joins to zeal? Teach me this.
Prometheus : Lost labor and thoughtless simplicity.
Okeanos : Leave me to be affected by this, since it is most advantageous, when truly wise, to be deemed a fool.
Prometheus : This fault will be seen to be my own.
Okeanos : Clearly the manner of your speech orders me back home.
Prometheus : So that you won't win enmity for yourself by lamenting for me.
Okeanos : In the eyes of the one who is newly seated on his omnipotent throne?
Prometheus : Beware lest the time come when his heart is angered with you.
Okeanos: Your plight, Prometheus, is my instructor.
Prometheus : Go away, depart, keep your present purpose.
Okeanos : Your urging meets my eagerness; for my four-footed winged beast fans with his wings the smooth pathway of the air; and truly he will be glad to rest his knees in his stall at home. [Exit.]"


Oceanus | Roman mosaic
Z35.7 OCEANUS
OR PONTUS
     

OCEANUS GOD OF THE RIVER OCEANUS

Homer, Iliad 14. 311 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The house of deep-running Okeanos."

Homer, Iliad 20. 5 ff :
"[Zeus] told Themis to summon all the gods into assembly. She went everywhere and told them to make their way to Zeus' house. There was no River who was not there, except only Okeanos."

Homer, Iliad 21. 194 ff :
"Not powerful Akheloios matches his strength against Zeus, not the enormous strength of Okeanos with his deep-running waters, Okeanos, from whom all rivers are and the entire sea and all springs and all deep wells have their waters of him, yet even Okeanos is afraid of the lightning of great Zeus and the dangerous thunderbolt when it breaks from the sky crashing."

Homer, Odyssey 4. 561 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The world's end, the Elysian fields . . . Snow and tempest and thunderstorms never enter there, but for men's refreshment Okeanos sends out continually the high-singing breezes of the west (aetai zephyroio)."

Hesiod, Theogony 337 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Tethys bore to Okeanos the swirling Potamoi (Rivers) . . . [and the Okeanides who] alike look after the earth and the depths of the standing water."

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 139 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Okeanos, him who with his sleepless current encircles the whole earth."

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 302 ff :
"[Okeanos] the stream that bears your name and the rock-roofed caves you yourself have made [for your home]."

Plato, Cratylus 400d & 401e (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato constructs philosophical etymologies for the names of the gods :]
Sokrates : Let us inquire what thought men had in giving them [the gods] their names . . . The first men who gave names [to the gods] were no ordinary persons, but high thinkers and great talkers . . . Herakleitos [philosopher C6th to 5th B.C.] says, you know, that all things move and nothing remains still, and he likens the universe to the current of a river, saying that you cannot step twice into the same stream . . . Well, don't you think he who gave to the ancestors of the other gods the names 'Rhea' and 'Kronos' [derived by Plato from the Greek words 'flow' and 'time'] had the same thought as Herakleitos? Do you think he gave both of them the names of streams merely by chance? Just so Homer, too, says--`Okeanos the origin of the gods, and their mother Tethys;' and I believe Hesiod says that also. Orpheus, too, says--`Fair-flowing Okeanos was the first to marry, and he wedded his sister Tethys, daughter of his mother. See how they agree with each other and all tend towards the doctrine of Herakleitos."

Aratus, Phaenomena 566 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek astronomical poem C3rd B.C.) :
"Okeanos himself will give thee signs at either horn--the East or the West--in the many constellations that wheel about him, when from below he sends forth each rising sign."

Orphic Hymn 83 to Oceanus (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Okeanos, Fumigation from Aromatics. Okeanos I call, whose nature ever flows, from whom at first both Gods and men arose; sire incorruptible, whose waves surround, and earth’s all-terminating circle bound: hence every river, hence the spreading sea, and earth’s pure bubbling fountains spring from thee. Hear, mighty sire, for boundless bliss is thine, greatest cathartic of the powers divine: earth’s friendly limit, fountain of the pole, whose waves wide spreading and circumfluent roll. Approach benevolent, with placid mind, and be forever to thy mystics kind."

Orphic Hymn 11 to Pan :
"Old Okeanos, too, reveres thy [Pan's] high command, whose liquid arms begird the solid land."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 949 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tethys and Oceanus . . . [took] away my [the sea-god Glaukos'] mortal essences. They purified me with a ninefold chant that purges my sins; then bade me plunge my body beneath a hundred rivers. Instantly torrents cascaded down from near and far and poured whole seas of waters on my head."

Ovid, Fasti 5. 79 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Oceanus, whose translucent waters scarf the broad earth."

Statius, Achilleid 1. 50 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"He [Poseidon] was coming from Oceanus his host, gladdened by the banquet, and his countenance suffused with the nectar of the deep."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6. 352 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[During the Great Deluge :] Now the barriers of the sevenzoned watery sky were opened, when Zeus poured down his showers. The mountain-torrents roared with fuller fountains of the loudsplashing gulf. The Limnai (Lakes), liquid daughters cut off from Okeanos raised their surface. The fountains shot spouts of the lower waters of Okeanos into the air."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8. 110 ff :
"[Hera speaks :] `I am afraid Kronides [Zeus], who is called my husband and brother, will banish me from heaven for a woman’s bed . . . I will leave heaven because of their earthly marriage, I will go to the uttermost bounds of Okeanos and share the hearth of primeval Tethys; thence I will pass to the house of and abide with Ophion (the Snake) [i.e. Okeanos]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 236 ff :
"[Dionysos cries out to the River Hydaspes when he tries to drown the god's army :] If your Okeanos makes you so haughty, consider Eridanos struck by the bolt of Zeus, your brother burnt with fire : a cruel sorrow it was for your watery ancestor [Okeanos], who is girdled by the world’s rim, who pours all those mighty streams of water to posses the earth, when he saw his own son burnt up and made no war on Olympos, nor contended with his flood against the firebarbed thunderbolt. Pray spare your waters awhile, or I may see you Hydaspes, burnt up in fiery flames like Eridanos."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 280 ff :
"[Dionysos set the streams of the river Hydaspes aflame :] Okeanos also cried out against Dionysos in menacing words, pouring a watery roar from his manystream throat, and deluging the shores of the world with the flood of words which issued from his everlasting mouth like a fountain : `O Tethys! Agemate and bedmate of Okeanos, ancient as the world, nurse of commingled waters, selfborn, loving mother of children, what shall we do? Now Rainy Zeus blazes in arms against me and your children. Even as Asopos found the father Zeus Kronion his destroyer, in the bastard shape of a bird, so Hydaspes has found Bakkhos the son. Nay, I will bring my water against he lightnings of Zeus, and drown the fiery Sun in my quenching flood, I will put out the Stars of heaven! Kronion shall see me overwhelm Selene with my roaring streams. Under the region of the Bear, I will wash with my waters the ends of the axle and the dry track of the Wain. The heavenly Dolphin, which long ago swam in my deep sea, I will make to swim once more, and cover him with new seas. I will drag down from heaven the fiery Eridanos whose course is among the stars, and bring him back to a new home in the Celtic land: he shall be water again, and the sky shall be bare of the river of fire. The starry Fishes that swim on high I will pull in to the sea and make them mine again, to swim in water instead of Olympos. Tethys, awake! We will drown the stars in water, that I may see the Bull, who once swam over a waveless sea, tossed on stormier waves in the paths of the waters after the bed of Europa. Selene herself, bullshaped and horned driver of cattle, may be angry to see my horned bullshaped form. I will travel high into the heaven, that I may behold Cepheus drenched and the Wagggoner in soaking tunic, as Earthshaker once did when about Korinthos soaking Ares once boldly shouted defiance of battle against stars! I will swallow the shining Goat, the nurse of Zeus, and I will offer infinite water to the Waterman as a suitable gift. Get ready, Tethys, and you, O Thalassa (Sea)! For Zeus has been delivered of a base son in bull shape, to destroy all Rivers and all creatures together, all blameless: the thyrsus wand has slain the Indians, the torch has burnt Hydaspes!’
So he cried blustering in a flood of speech from his deep waves. Father Zeus turned aside the menace of his angry son, for he massed the clouds and flung out a thunderclap; he stayed the flaming attack of Dionysos, and calmed the anger of boundless Okeanos. Hera also made an infinite noise resound through the air, to restrain the wrath of Dionysos’ fiery power. Then old Hydaspes held out a wet hand to merciful Bakkhos, and appealed to the fiery son of Zeus in words that bubbled out of his lips : `. . . I am ashamed to appear before my father [Okeanos], because the murmuring stream which I draw is mingled with blood, and I pollute Poseidon with clots of gore; this it was, only this that armed to strive against Dionysos. By your father, protector of guests and suppliants, have mercy on Hydaspes, now hot and boiling with your fire!'"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 108 ff :
"Loudbooming Okeanos, girdled with the circle of the sky, who leads his water earth-encompassing round the turning point which he bathes, was joined in primeval wedlock with Tethys. The water bride-groom begat Klymene, fairest of the Neiades, whom Tethys nursed on her wet breast, her youngest, a maiden with lovely arms. For her beauty Helios pined . . . The torch of love was stronger than the blaze of his car and the shining of his rays, when over the bend of the reddened Okeanos as he bathed his fiery form in the eastern waters, he beheld the maiden close by the way, while she swam naked and sported in her father’s waves . . . Her father united the girl to the heavenly charioteer [Helios]. The lightfoot Horai (Hours) acclaimed Klymene’s bridal with Helios Phaesphoros (Lightbringer), the Nymphai Neides (Naiads) [Okeanides] danced around; in a watery bridal-bower the fruitful maiden was wedded in a flaming union, and received the hot bridegroom into her cool arms . . . and Okeanos beside his bride Tethys sounded his song with all the fountains of his throat.
As he [Phaethon son of Helios & Klymene] sprang from the childbed, the daughters of Okeanos cleansed him, Klymene’s son, in his grandsire’s waters, and wrapt him in swaddlings. The Stars (Asteres) in shining movement leapt into the stream of Okeanos which they knew so well, and surrounded the boy, with Selene Eileithyia (our Lady of Labour), sending forth her sparkling gleams . . .
Often in the course of the boy’s training Okeanos would have a pretty game, lifting Phaethon on his midbelly and letting him drop down; he would throw the boy high in the air, rolling over and over moving in a high path as quick as the wandering wind, and catch him again on his arm; then he would shoot him up again, and the boy would avoid the ready hand of Okeanos, and turn a somersault round and round till he splashed into the dark waters, prophet of his own death. The old man groaned when he saw it, recognizing the divine oracle, and hid all in prudent silence, that he might not tear the happy heart of Klymene the loving mother by foretelling the cruel threads of Phaethon’s Fate."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 142 ff :
"Tethys, running side by side with Okeanos, who begat thee in his bed of many fountains when joined in watery union with Tethys."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 155 ff :
"Okeanos, first messenger of the laws for the newborn child [Beroe goddess of the city famous for its laws], sent his flood for the childbed round the loins of the world, pouring his girdle of water in an everflowing belt."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 43. 286 ff :
"[Poseidon led the sea-gods into battle against the army of Dionysos :] The Potamoi (Rivers) came roaring into the battle with Dionysos, encouraging their lord, and Okeanos gaped a watery bellow from his everflowing throat while Poseidon’s trumpet sounded to tell of the coming strife."

For MORE information on the cosmic river see THE RIVER OKEANOS


OCEANUS & CALLISTO, THE CONSTELLATION OF THE BEAR

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 177 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Tethys, wife of Oceanus and foster mother of Juno, forbids its [the constellation of Ursa Major, the Bear] setting in Oceanus."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 508 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Omnipotens (the Almighty) [Zeus] swept away both son [Arkas] and mother [Kallisto, a love of Zeus] . . . whirled in a wind together through the void, and set them in the sky as neighbouring stars [Ursa Major and Ursa Minor]. Juno [Hera], in fury when that concubine shone midst the stars, descended to the sea, to Tethys and old Oceanus, whom the gods greatly revere, and to their questioning replied : `You ask why I, Regina Deorum (Queen of the Gods), come hither from the mansions of the sky? I am dethroned; another reigns; my words are false unless, when night darkens the world, you see, new-honoured in heaven to injure me, twin constellations at the utmost pole, where earth in last and shortest circle turns. Who now would hesitate to insult Juno [Hera]? . . . She whom I forbade to be a woman [by transforming her into a bear], made a goddess! Thus the guilty pay! So great my sovereignty! . . . But you who reared me, if your hearts are touched by my disgrace, debar from your green deeps that sevenfold star that at the price of shame was set in heaven, nor let that prostitute your waters’ pure integrity pollute.’ The Di Mari (Sea-gods) gave assent, and Saturnia [Hera] departed heavenwards through the cloudless air with her light chariot.'"


OCEANUS GOD OF THE SEA

Okeanos was equated with Pontos, the Sea, by late classical writers. The association occurred after Greek explorers reached the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, to discover a salty, rather than fresh-water, sea.

Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 15 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"But none need grudge that she [the island Delos] be named among the first, whensoever unto Okeanos and unto Titanide Tethys the islands gather and she ever leads the way. Behind her footsteps follow Phoinikian Kyrnos, no mean isle, and Abantian Makris of the Ellopians, and delectable Sardo, and the isle whereto Kypris first swam from the water [Kypros] and which for fee of her landing she keeps safe."

Lycophron, Alexandra 229 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The hoary Titanide bride [Tethys] of Ogenos [Okeanos] seething with the corded gulls."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 949 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"I [Glaukos] was once a mortal [who was transformed into a sea-god after eating a magical herb] . . . The Di Maris (Sea-Gods) welcomed me to join their company (so well was I esteemed) and called on Tethys and Oceanus to take away my mortal essences. They purified me with a ninefold chant that purges my sins; then bade me plunge my body beneath a hundred rivers. Instantly torrents cascaded down from near and far and poured whole seas of waters on my head. So far I can relate what I recall, so far remember; but the rest is lost. When sense returned, I found myself in body another self, nor was my mind the same. For the first time I saw this bronze-green beard, these flowing locks that sweep along the swell, these huge broad shoulders and my sea-blue arms, my legs that curve to form a fishes tail."

Seneca, Medea 375 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Any little craft now wanders at will upon the deep. All bounds have been removed . . . There will come an age in the far-off years when Oceanus shall unloose the bonds of things, when the whole broad earth shall be revealed, when Tethys shall disclose new worlds and Thule [a mythical northern land] not be the limit of the lands."


Sources:

  • Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
  • Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
  • Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
  • Homerica, The Cercopes - Greek Epic B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, The Clouds - Greek Comedy C5th-4th B.C.
  • Plato, Cratylus - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Plato, Theaetetus - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
  • Aratus, Phaenomena - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
  • Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
  • Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
  • The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Greek Papyri III Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Poetry C4th A.D.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Seneca, Medea - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Achilleid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.

Other references not currently quoted here: Plato Timaeus 40e