Oceanus or Ocean, (Ὠκεανός; Lat. Oceanus) cosmogonic element of Greek mythology, is formed by the water that surrounds the flat disc of the Earth like a great river whose mysterious edges were occupied by fabulous peoples.
Oceanus and Tethys
Gazantiep Archaeological Museum, Turkey
Personified, he was the eldest of the Titans, son of Ouranos and of Gaia but he did not intervene in the Titanomachy, the Titans’ struggle against Zeus and ruled peacefully in the company of his wife Tethys, the youngest of the Titanides, over his immense kingdom.
Rhea entrusted Hera to them to protect her during this terrible battle. Later Hera, grateful, intervened to reconcile the couple who had quarreled.
Oceanus was pictured as an old man of beautiful presence, with sweet and benevolent feelings, who lived in the heart of the deep waters, far from the hustle and bustle of the world.
This is why Oceanus rarely intervenes in mythological stories. He appears in the tenth of Heracles’ works, the fight against Geryon, where he lends the hero the golden cup, borrowed from his son-in-law Helios to bring back the herds by sea.
He was one of the only ones to visit Prometheus then chained in the Caucasus.
Oceanus and Tethys joined forces to give birth to very many sons, the rivers god and very many daughters, the Oceanides. Hesiode in Theogony provides a long list of them but he specifies that more than 3000 should be added.
Tethys gave to the Oceanus Rivers with a sinuous course, the Nile, the Alpheus, the Eridan with deep chasms, the Strymon, the Meander, the Ister with beautiful waters, the Phase, the Rhesus, the Acheloos with silvery flows, the Nessus, the Rhodius, the Haliacmon, the Haliacmon, the Heptapore, the Granic, the Esopus, the divine Simois, the Penea, the Hermus, the graceful Caicos, the broad Sangarius, the Ladon, the Parthenius, the Evenus, the Ardesque and the divine Scamander.
Tethys also gave birth to the sacred troupe of these Nymphs who, with King Apollo and the Rivers, raised the childhood of the Heroes on earth; it was Zeus himself who charged them with this task: Pitho, Admit, Ianthe, Electra, Doris, Prymno, Urania similar to the gods, Hippo, Clymene, Rhodia, Callirhoë, Zeuxo, Clytie, Idye, Pasithoë, Plexaure, Galaxaure, the kind Dione, Melobosis, Thoë, the beautiful Polydore, Cerceis with sweet character, Pluto with big eyes, Perseis, Ianire, Acaste, Zanthe, the graceful Petrea, Menestho, Europe, Metis, Eurynome, Telestho with a purple veil, Crisia, Asia, the pleasant Calypso, Eudora, Tyche, Amphiro, Ocyroë and Styx who surpass them all, are the most ancient girls of the Ocean and Tethys; there are many more, because three thousand Oceanids with charming feet, scattered on all sides, inhabit the earth and the depths of the lakes, an illustrious and divine race! So many Rivers, born of the Ocean and the venerable Tethys, roll their noisy waves in the distance: it would be difficult for a mortal to remember all their names; only the peoples who inhabit their shores can know them.
(Hesiod, Theogony according to a Bignan translation)
Oceanus in Arts
Oceanus is depicted as a bearded old man, often accompanied by a sea monster or his wife, Tethys, on very beautiful mosaics or as a marble statue from the Vatican Museum or the Farnese Collection.