Proteus

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In Greek mythology, Proteus (Πρωτεύς) is an early sea-god, one of several deities whom Homer calls the "Old Man of the Sea"[1], whose name suggests the "first" (from Greek "πρῶτος" - protos, "first"), as protogonos (πρωτόγονος) is the "primordial" or the "firstborn". He became the son of Poseidon in the Olympian theogony (Odyssey iv. 432), or of Nereus and Doris, or of Oceanus and a Naiad, and was made the herdsman of Poseidon's seals, the great bull seal at the center of the harem. He can foretell the future, but, in a mytheme familiar from several cultures, will change his shape to avoid having to; he will answer only to someone who is capable of capturing him. From this feature of Proteus comes the adjective protean, with the general meaning of "versatile", "mutable", "capable of assuming many forms". "Protean" has positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability. The earliest attested form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek 𐀡𐀫𐀳𐀄 po-ro-te-u, written in Linear B syllabic script.[2]

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The myth of Proteus

According to Homer (Odyssey iv:412), the sandy island of Pharos situated off the coast of the Nile Delta was the home of Proteus, the oracular Old Man of the Sea and herdsman of the sea-beasts. In the Odyssey, Menelaus relates to Telemachus that he had been becalmed here on his journey home from the Trojan War. He learned from Proteus' daughter, Eidothea ("the very image of the Goddess"), that if he could capture her father he could force him to reveal which of the gods he had offended, and how he could propitiate them and return home. Proteus emerged from the sea to sleep among his colony of seals, but Menelaus was successful in holding him, though Proteus took the forms of a lion, a serpent, a leopard, a pig, even of water or a tree. Proteus then answered truthfully, further informing Menelaus that his brother Agamemnon had been murdered on his return home, that Ajax the Lesser had been shipwrecked and killed, and that Odysseus was stranded on Calypso's Isle Ogygia.

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