Ancient Greek mythology chronicles several gods who have power over the waves. These sea gods reflect the importance of sailing and sea life to the city-states of Greece, a region surrounded by the Aegean, Cretan and Ionian seas of the Mediterranean. However, of all the deities associated with great bodies of water, the most powerful is Poseidon, who in Greek myth is generally regarded as the king of the deep.
Okeanos or Oceanos was one of the Titans, the first generation of ancient Greek gods. Son of Gaia (earth) and Ouranos (sky), Okeanos ruled over the giant stream believed to surround the land, which according to Homer was shaped like a shield, and supplied water to its rivers. Okeanos had a wife, Tethys, and 3,000 daughters, the ocean nymphs known as the Okeanides.
Poseidon and Amphitrite
Poseidon was the ancient Greek god who rules the seas. Son of the titans Kronos (time) and Rhea (fertility), Poseidon was also the god of earthquakes and the creator of horses, both of which illustrate his mastery of powerful natural forces. Poseidon as thought to live in an undersea palace and wielded a trident, with which he could both cause violent waves and calm the sea. Poseidon's wife Amphitrite is variably portrayed as having the power calm seas and to cause dangerous waves. She also gave birth to their children, the sea god Triton and the nymph Rhode, wife of the sun god Helios.
Pontos, Thalassa and Nereus
Pontos was the embodiment of the sea and another son of Gaia, who gave birth to him without a father. Pontos and his wife Thalassa, which is the Greek word for "sea," brought forth fish and other sea animals. They are also the parents of the sea-god Nereus, who is commonly called "the old man of the sea," since the ancient Greek mythographer Hesiod refers to him as "geron," or "old man." Nereus and his wife Doris were the parents of the Nereids, nymphs who themselves had the power to calm the sea and keep sailors from danger.
Powerful Sea Beings of the "Odyssey"
Homer's Odyssey is the tale of Odysseus' travel home from the Trojan War. Odysseus adventurous sea journey was considerably prolonged by the wrath of Poseidon, whose son, the one-eyed cyclops, Polyphemos, was blinded by Odysseus in his escape from the giant's cave. Other powerful sea beings in the Odyssey include the monsters Scylla and Charybdis, who embodied the deadly rocks and tides in the narrow Strait of Messina, and the Sirens, whose enchanting song threatened to cause wayward sailors to crash on the rocks of their island. In addition to Homer's epic poem, sea beings in the Odyssey appear in other mythic works, such as the third-century B.C. Argonautika.
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- Sacred-texts.com: The Theogony of Hesiod
- Maps of the World: Greece
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