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Mythology of Okeanos (aka Oceanus)




The ancient Greeks recounted many legends about the earliest rulers of the Earth, a number of gigantic proto-gods called “Titans”. The ancient Greeks believed Okeanos, one of the Titans, exercised control over the world’s first oceans and waterways.


Different versions occur in legends about the origins of Okeanos. Some stories describe him as the child of two mighty natural forces: Chaos (the beginning of everything) and GAIA (the earth). Other legends call him the eldest son of the earliest two Titans, Uranus (the ruler of the sky) and Gaia (the ruler of the Earth). It seems clear Okeanos ranks as one of the most ancient Greek gods.


According to legends, several of the Titans eventually rebelled against their father. However, Okeanos did not take part in this uprising. He oversaw the waters on the edge of the world, and also ruled over the waterways separating Earth from Hades, the shadowy realm of the dead.


While his brothers battled with their father, Okeanos and his wife Tethys spent their time raising a very large family. They had many, many children. Some sources claim the ancient Greeks described their sons as Potamoi (the earliest gods of rivers and streams) and their daughters as Oceanids (nymphs). Their daughters included nymphs associated with natural features, such as woods, ponds, beaches, trees, brooks, flowers, and meadows. Okeanos and Tethys produced well over 3,000 children!


One of the couple’s daughters became the mother of ocean nymphs called “Nereids”. Another daughter, Pleione, became the mother of nymphs who eventually transformed into the seven Pleiades stars.


The ancient Greeks believed a conflict eventually arose between Zeus, a nephew of Okeanos, and the Titans. Zeus eventually won this struggle. He banished the Titans who had opposed him. He ruled from Mount Olympus with many of his children.


During this epic battle, according to most legends, Okeanos did not enter into the conflict. In fact, some of his children eventually joined the gods and goddesses living on Mount Olympus. Yet Okeanos himself never moved there. Instead, the ancient Greeks believed he remained ruling a large waterway which encircled the known Earth.