AskDefine | Define oceanus

Dictionary Definition

Oceanus n : (Greek mythology) god of the stream that flowed around the earth in ancient mythology

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. A large mare region on the Moon.

Derived terms



From Ὠκεανός (Okeanos).

Proper noun

  1. Personification of vast waters or the world ocean. He was the first-born of the Titans, son of Uranus and Gaia, the god Ωκεανός Ποταμός (River Ocean) that encircled the earth. With his sister Tethys fathered all rivers and the Oceanids.

Extensive Definition

Oceanus was believed to be the world-ocean in classical antiquity, which the ancient Romans and Greeks considered to be an enormous river encircling the world. Strictly speaking, Okeanos was the ocean-stream at the Equator in which floated the habitable hemisphere (oikoumene). In Greek mythology, this world-ocean was personified as a Titan, a son of Uranus and Gaia. 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 torso of a serpent (cf. Typhon). On a fragmentary archaic vessel (British Museum 1971.11-1.1) of ca 580 BCE, among the gods arriving at the wedding of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis, 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 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 and the Atlantic Ocean, 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, ruled over the Mediterranean.
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 Okeanos, 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:
"Then, running round the shield-rim, triple-ply,
he pictured all the might of the Ocean stream."
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.

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' 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.



  • Karl Kerenyi. The Gods of the Greeks. Thames and Hudson, 1951.

External links

Its activity is mainly focused on promoting and developing several research projects aiming at the preservation of the aquatic ecosystems and environments, as well as the protection of the aquatic species under increasing threat. At the same time we look at the different interactions between the "humans" and the "animals". With several international cooperations our horizons are widened and our research is enriched by the enthusiasm and multicultural spirit of our crew.
oceanus in Asturian: Océanu (mitoloxía)
oceanus in Belarusian: Акіян, тытан
oceanus in Bosnian: Okean (mitologija)
oceanus in Breton: Okeanos
oceanus in Bulgarian: Океан (митология)
oceanus in Catalan: Oceà (mitologia)
oceanus in Czech: Okeanos
oceanus in Danish: Okeanos
oceanus in German: Okeanos
oceanus in Estonian: Okeanos
oceanus in Modern Greek (1453-): Ωκεανός (μυθολογία)
oceanus in Spanish: Océano (mitología)
oceanus in Esperanto: Oceano (mitologio)
oceanus in Persian: اوکئانوس
oceanus in French: Océan (mythologie)
oceanus in Croatian: Okean (mitologija)
oceanus in Indonesian: Oceanus
oceanus in Italian: Oceano (mitologia)
oceanus in Hebrew: אוקיינוס (מיתולוגיה)
oceanus in Luxembourgish: Okeanos
oceanus in Lithuanian: Okeanas
oceanus in Hungarian: Ókeanosz
oceanus in Dutch: Oceanus (god)
oceanus in Japanese: オーケアノス
oceanus in Norwegian: Okeanos
oceanus in Polish: Okeanos
oceanus in Portuguese: Oceano (mitologia)
oceanus in Romanian: Oceanus
oceanus in Russian: Океан (мифология)
oceanus in Simple English: Okeanos
oceanus in Slovak: Okeanos
oceanus in Slovenian: Okean
oceanus in Serbo-Croatian: Okean (mitologija)
oceanus in Finnish: Okeanos
oceanus in Swedish: Okeanos
oceanus in Thai: โอเคียนัส
oceanus in Turkish: Okeanos
oceanus in Ukrainian: Океан (міфологія)
oceanus in Yiddish: אקעאנוס
oceanus in Chinese: 俄刻阿洛斯

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Davy, Davy Jones, Dylan, Neptune, Nereid, Nereus, Oceanid, Poseidon, Thetis, Triton, Varuna, fresh-water nymph, kelpie, limniad, man fish, mermaid, merman, naiad, nix, nixie, ocean nymph, sea devil, sea god, sea nymph, sea-maid, sea-maiden, seaman, siren, undine, water god, water spirit, water sprite
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