Oceanus' consort is his sister Tethys, and from their union came the ocean nymphs, also known as the three-thousand Oceanids, and all the rivers of the world, fountains, and lakes. From Cronus, of the race of Titans, the Olympian gods have their birth, and Hera mentions twice in Iliad 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, or Titanomachy, Oceanus, along with Prometheus and Themis, 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 in the latter's revolt against their father, Uranus.
In the Iliad, the rich iconography of Achilles' shield, which was fashioned by Hephaestus, is enclosed, as the world itself was believed to be, by Oceanus:
When Odysseus and Nestor walk together along the shore of the sounding sea (Iliad 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 gods, Oceanus appears only once in myth, as a representative of the archaic world that Heracles 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. 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.
Oceanus appears in Hellenic cosmography as well as myth. Cartographers continued to represent the encircling equatorial stream much as it had appeared on Achilles' shield.
Though Herodotus was skeptical about the physical existence of Oceanus, he rejected snowmelt as a cause of the annual flood of the Nile river; according to his translator and interpreter, Livio Catullo Stecchini, he left unsettled the question of an equatorial Nile, since the geography of Sub-Saharan Africa was unknown to him.
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