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Oceanus

Oceanus

Overview
Oceanus; , Ōkeanós, ɔːkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, believed by the ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 to be the world-ocean
World Ocean
The World Ocean, world ocean, or global ocean, is the interconnected system of the Earth's oceanic waters, and comprises the bulk of the hydrosphere, covering almost 71% of the Earth's surface, with a total volume of 1.332 billion cubic kilometres.The unity and continuity of the World Ocean, with...

, an enormous river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 encircling the world.

Strictly speaking, Oceanus was the ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

-stream
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 at the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 in which floated the habitable hemisphere (οἰκουμένη, oikoumene). In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, this world-ocean was personified as a Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

, a son of Uranus
Uranus (mythology)
Uranus , was the primal Greek god personifying the sky. His equivalent in Roman mythology was Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, according to Hesiod in his Theogony, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth...

 and Gaia
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

. In Hellenistic and Roman mosaics, this Titan was often depicted as having the upper body of a muscular man with a long beard and horns (often represented as the claws of a crab) and the lower body of a serpent
Serpent (symbolism)
Serpent in Latin means: Rory Collins :&, in turn, from the Biblical Hebrew word of: "saraf" with root letters of: which refers to something burning-as, the pain of poisonous snake's bite was likened to internal burning.This word is commonly used in a specifically mythic or religious context,...

 (cf.
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Encyclopedia
Oceanus; , Ōkeanós, ɔːkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, believed by the ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 to be the world-ocean
World Ocean
The World Ocean, world ocean, or global ocean, is the interconnected system of the Earth's oceanic waters, and comprises the bulk of the hydrosphere, covering almost 71% of the Earth's surface, with a total volume of 1.332 billion cubic kilometres.The unity and continuity of the World Ocean, with...

, an enormous river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 encircling the world.

Strictly speaking, Oceanus was the ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

-stream
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 at the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 in which floated the habitable hemisphere (οἰκουμένη, oikoumene). In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, this world-ocean was personified as a Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

, a son of Uranus
Uranus (mythology)
Uranus , was the primal Greek god personifying the sky. His equivalent in Roman mythology was Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, according to Hesiod in his Theogony, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth...

 and Gaia
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

. In Hellenistic and Roman mosaics, this Titan was often depicted as having the upper body of a muscular man with a long beard and horns (often represented as the claws of a crab) and the lower body of a serpent
Serpent (symbolism)
Serpent in Latin means: Rory Collins :&, in turn, from the Biblical Hebrew word of: "saraf" with root letters of: which refers to something burning-as, the pain of poisonous snake's bite was likened to internal burning.This word is commonly used in a specifically mythic or religious context,...

 (cf. Typhon
Typhon
Typhon , also Typhoeus , Typhaon or Typhos was the last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. He was known as the "Father of all monsters"; his wife Echidna was likewise the "Mother of All Monsters."Typhon was described in pseudo-Apollodorus,...

). On a fragmentary archaic vessel of circa 580 BC (British Museum 1971.11-1.1), among the gods arriving at the wedding of Peleus
Peleus
In Greek mythology, Pēleus was a hero whose myth was already known to the hearers of Homer in the late 8th century BCE. Peleus was the son of Aeacus, king of the island of Aegina, and Endeïs, the oread of Mount Pelion in Thessaly; he was the father of Achilles...

 and the sea-nymph Thetis
Thetis
Silver-footed Thetis , disposer or "placer" , is encountered in Greek mythology mostly as a sea nymph or known as the goddess of water, one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of the ancient one of the seas with shape-shifting abilities who survives in the historical vestiges of most later Greek myths...

, is a fish-tailed Oceanus, with a fish in one hand and a serpent in the other, gifts of bounty and prophecy. In Roman mosaics, such as that from Bardo
Le Bardo
Le Bardo is a Tunisian city west of Tunis. As of 2004, the population is 73,953.Built by the Hafsid dynasty in the 15th century, the name Bardo comes from the Spanish word "pardo" meaning a garden. Bardo became a residence of the Tunis court in the 18th century...

 (illustration below) he might carry a steering-oar and cradle a ship.

Some scholars believe that Oceanus originally represented all bodies of salt water, including the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, the two largest bodies known to the ancient Greeks. However, as geography became more accurate, Oceanus came to represent the stranger, more unknown waters of the Atlantic Ocean (also called the "Ocean Sea"), while the newcomer of a later generation, Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

, ruled over the Mediterranean.
Oceanus' consort is his sister Tethys
Tethys (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Tethys , daughter of Uranus and Gaia was an archaic Titaness and aquatic sea goddess, invoked in classical Greek poetry but not venerated in cult. Tethys was both sister and wife of Oceanus...

, and from their union came the ocean nymph
Nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

s, also known as the three-thousand Oceanid
Oceanid
In Greek mythology and, later, Roman mythology, the Oceanids were the three thousand daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. Each was the patroness of a particular spring, river, sea, lake, pond, pasture, flower or cloud...

s, and all the rivers of the world, fountains, and lakes. From Cronus
Cronus
In Greek mythology, Cronus or Kronos was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky...

, of the race of Titans, the Olympian gods
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

 have their birth, and Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

 mentions twice in Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

book XIV her intended journey "to the ends of the generous earth on a visit to Oceanus, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother who brought me up kindly in their own house."

In most variations of the war between the Titans and the Olympians
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

, or Titanomachy
Titanomachy
In Greek mythology, the Titanomachy or War of the Titans , was the ten-year series of battles fought in Thessaly between the two camps of deities long before the existence of mankind: the Titans, based on Mount Othrys, and the Olympians, who would come to reign on Mount Olympus...

, Oceanus, along with Prometheus
Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals...

 and Themis
Themis
Themis is an ancient Greek Titaness. She is described as "of good counsel", and is the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom. Themis means "divine law" rather than human ordinance, literally "that which is put in place", from the verb τίθημι, títhēmi, "to put"...

, did not take the side of his fellow Titans against the Olympians, but instead withdrew from the conflict. In most variations of this myth, Oceanus also refused to side with Cronus
Cronus
In Greek mythology, Cronus or Kronos was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky...

 in the latter's revolt against their father, Uranus
Uranus (mythology)
Uranus , was the primal Greek god personifying the sky. His equivalent in Roman mythology was Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, according to Hesiod in his Theogony, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth...

.

Excerpts from Hesiod and Homer


This excerpt regards Oceanus's role in the Titanomachy
Titanomachy
In Greek mythology, the Titanomachy or War of the Titans , was the ten-year series of battles fought in Thessaly between the two camps of deities long before the existence of mankind: the Titans, based on Mount Othrys, and the Olympians, who would come to reign on Mount Olympus...

:
In the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, the rich iconography of Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

' shield, which was fashioned by Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, is enclosed, as the world itself was believed to be, by Oceanus:
When Odysseus
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 and Nestor
Nestor (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nestor of Gerenia was the son of Neleus and Chloris and the King of Pylos. He became king after Heracles killed Neleus and all of Nestor's siblings...

 walk together along the shore of the sounding sea (Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

IX.182) their prayers are addressed "to the great Sea-god who girdles the world." It is to Oceanus, not to Poseidon, that their thoughts are directed.

Invoked in passing by poets and figured as the father of rivers and streams, thus the progenitor of river god
River God
River God is a novel by author Wilbur Smith. It tells the story of the talented eunuch slave Taita, his life in Egypt, the flight of Taita along with the Egyptian populace from the Hyksos invasion, and their eventual return. The novel can be grouped together with Wilbur Smith's other books on...

s, Oceanus appears only once in myth, as a representative of the archaic world that Heracles
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

 constantly threatened and bested. Heracles forced the loan from Helios of his golden bowl, in order to cross the wide expanse of the Ocean on his trip to the Hesperides
Hesperides
In Greek mythology, the Hesperides are nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world, located near the Atlas mountains in North Africa at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean....

. When Oceanus tossed the bowl, Heracles threatened him and stilled his waves. The journey of Heracles in the sun-bowl upon Oceanus was a favored theme among painters of Attic pottery.

In cosmography


Oceanus appears in Hellenic cosmography as well as myth. Cartographers continued to represent the encircling equatorial stream much as it had appeared on Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

' shield.

Though Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 was skeptical about the physical existence of Oceanus, he rejected snowmelt as a cause of the annual flood of the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 river; according to his translator and interpreter, Livio Catullo Stecchini
Livio Catullo Stecchini
Livio Catullo Stecchini was a professor of ancient history at Paterson State Teachers College in New Jersey. He wrote on the history of science, ancient weights and measures , and the history of cartography in antiquity...

, he left unsettled the question of an equatorial Nile, since the geography of Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

 was unknown to him.

Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius Rhodius, also known as Apollonius of Rhodes , early 3rd century BCE – after 246 BCE, was a poet, and a librarian at the Library of Alexandria...

 calls the lower Danube the Keras Okeanoio (Gulf or Horn of Oceanus) in Argonautica (IV. 282).

Accion (Ocean) in the fourth century Gaulish Latin of Rufus Avienus
Avienus
Avienus was a Latin writer of the 4th century AD. According to an inscription from Bulla Regia, his full name was Postumius Rufius Festus Avienius.He was a native of Volsinii in Etruria, from the distinguished family of the Rufii Festi...

', Ora maritima, was applied to great lakes.

Both Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 (Odyssey, XII. 1) and Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

 (Theogonia, v.242. 959) refer to Okeanos Potamos, the "Ocean Stream",

Hecateus of Abdera writes that the Oceanus of the Hyperboreans is neither the Arctic Ocean nor Western Ocean, but the sea located to the north of the ancient Greek world, called "the most admirable of all seas" by Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 (lib. IV 85), called the "immense sea" by Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Tingentera and died c. AD 45.His short work occupies less than one hundred pages of ordinary print. It is laconic in style and deficient in method, but of pure Latinity, and occasionally relieved by pleasing...

 (lib. I. c. 19) and by Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes was the author of a description of the habitable world in Greek hexameter verse written in a terse and elegant style...

 (Orbis Descriptio, v. 165), and which is named Mare majus on medieval geographic maps.

At the end of the Okeanos Potamos, is the holy island of Alba (Leuke, Pytho Nisi, Isle of Snakes), sacred to the Pelasgian (and later, Greek) Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, greeting the sun rising in the east. Hecateus of Abdera refers to Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

's island from the region of the Hyperboreans, in the Oceanus. It was on Leuke, in one version of his legend, that the hero Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

, in a hilly tumulus, was buried (to this day, one of the mouths of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 is called Chilia). Leto
Leto
In Greek mythology, Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. The island of Kos is claimed as her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus...

, the Hyperborean goddess after nine days and nine nights of labour on the island of Delos (Pelasgian for hill, related to tell
Tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

) "gave birth to the great god of the antique light" (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, I. 4.1). Old Romanian folk songs sing of a white monastery on a white island with nine priests, nine singers, nine altars, on a part of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

known as the White Sea.

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