Glaucus

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Glaucus (Greek: Γλαῦκος) was a Greek sea-god. His parentage is different in the different traditions, which Athenaeus lists (Athen. vii. c. 48, Claud. de Nupt. Mar. x. 158.):

  • Theolytus the Methymnaean, in his Bacchic Odes - Copeus (also records an affair between Glaucus and Ariadne)
  • Promathides of Heraclea, in his Half Iambics - Polybus of Sicyon (by his wife Euboea)
  • Mnaseas, in Book III of his History of the Affairs of Europe - Anthedon and Alcyone
  • Euanthes, in his Hymn to Glaucus - Poseidon and the nymph Naias

Origins

According to Ovid, Glaucus began life as a mortal fisherman living in the Boeotian city of Anthedon. He discovered by accident a magical herb which could bring the fish he caught back to life, and decided to try eating it. The herb made him immortal, but also caused him to grow fins instead of arms and a fish's tail instead of legs (though some versions say he simply became a merman), forcing him to dwell forever in the sea. Glaucus was initially upset by this side-effect, but Oceanus and Tethys received him well and he was quickly accepted among the deities of the sea, learning from them the art of prophecy.

Glaucus fell in love with the beautiful nymph Scylla and wanted her for his wife, but she was appalled by his fish-like features and fled onto land when he tried to approach her. He asked the witch Circe for a potion to make Scylla fall in love with him, but Circe fell in love with him instead. She tried to win his heart with her most passionate and loving words, telling him to scorn Scylla and stay with her. But he replied that trees would grow on the ocean floor and seaweed would grow on the highest mountain before he would stop loving Scylla. In her anger, Circe poisoned the pool where Scylla bathed, transforming her into a terrible monster with twelve feet and six heads. In Euripides' play Orestes, Glaucus was a son of Nereus and says that he assisted Menelaus on his homeward journey with good advice. He also helped the Argonauts. It was believed that he commonly came to the rescue of sailors and fishermen in storms, having once been one himself.

In art

A statue of Glaucus was installed in 1911 in the middle of the Fontana delle Naiadi, Mario Rutelli's fountain of four naked bronze nymphs, located in the Piazza Repubblica, Rome.

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