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Oceanus: a Titan in Greek mythology

Oceanus in the Trevi Fountain

Statue of Oceanus in the Trevi Fountain, Rome


Oceanus was a Titan, one of the first race of gods. The Titans were Gaia and Uranus and their children: Kronos (Saturn), Rhea (his wife), Oceanus, Tethys (Oceanus' wife), Hyperion (Light, an early Sun god), Thea (mated with Hyperion, bore Helios, Eos, and Selene), Mnemosyne (memory, mother of the Muses), Themis (Justice and Order, mother of the Fates and the Seasons by Zeus), Iapetus (father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menoetius and Atlas), Coeus (intelligence), Phoebe (the Moon, Coeus’ wife, mother of Leto), Leto (mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus), Crius (father of Pallas, Perses and Astraios), Prometheus (Forethought the wisest, who molded the human race out of clay), Epimetheus (Afterthought), Metis (magical cunning, mother of Athena by Zeus) and Atlas.

After Kronos took the throne from Uranus, the Golden Age of Man, a time of harmony and prosperity, ensued. According to Greek legend, during this period man lived in a paradise like the garden of Eden, without greed, violence, toil, or the need for laws. This unfortunately did not last forever. When Kronos was about to slay his own father Uranus, it was prophesied that his son would in turn someday depose him. To keep this from being fulfilled, Kronos swallowed his children as they were born. The rest of the story was already told in the Jupiter section, but at the end of the Age of Heroes Zeus released the Titans, making Kronos king of the Elysian Isles to rule over the shades of the Heroes.

When the Titans revolted against their father Ouranos (Uranus) resulting in Kronos castrating him, mild Oceanus was the only Titan who did not join in the attack. And during the battle between the Olympians and the Titans Oceanus' wife Tethys nursed and protected Zeus' wife Hera. It is said that the constellation of Callisto, the Great Bear, never sets because Tethys does not allow her to dip herself into the ocean (Callisto was one of Zeus' many lovers, and here Tethys is being loyal to Hera).

In Greek mythology Oceanus and his wife Tethys are parents to the 3000 Oceanids, or ocean nymphs. Chief among the Oceanids are Metis or wisdom, the first great spouse of Zeus and mother to Athena by Zeus; Styx, the river of hatefulness circling Hades nine times; Doris or Bounty, who by Nereus the old man of the sea mothered the 50 Nereid sea nymphs; and Pleione, who by Atlas mothered the seven Pleiades.

Oceanus is the god of the backward-flowing river that encircles the Earth and is the source of all rivers, oceans and seas. In a conversation between Circe and Odysseus, Homer tells us through Circe (Odyssey 10.510) that we have to cross this river in order to reach Hades: " . . . when in your ship you have now crossed the stream of Oceanus, where is a level shore and the groves of Persephone . . . beach your boat there by Ocean's swirling streams and march on into Hades ' dark house."

"...It is most advantageous, when truly wise, to be deemed a fool." (Oceanus to Prometheus: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 386). "...Know yourself and adapt yourself to new ways; for new also is the ruler among the gods." (Oceanus to Prometheus: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 310). "For I am faring to visit the limits of the all-nurturing earth, and Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung." (Hera, Homer's Iliad, 14.200).

This Oceanus: a Titan in Greek Mythology page and much of this 600-page website are excerpted from the personalized, fine art astrology book You and the Universe.

Oceanus: Titan in Greek mythology mosaic tile

Oceanus on a mosaic panel from a fountain basin, third century BC, Roman; photo by Maicar Förlag–GML




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