Oceanus was the Titan god of the great, earth-encircling river Oceanus, font of all of the earth’s fresh-water: rivers, wells, springs and rain-clouds.

Residence: River Oceanus
Parents: Uranus and Gaia
Siblings: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Cyclops, Furies, Giants, Hecatoncheires, Hyperion, Iapetus, Meliae, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, Theia and Themis
Consort: Tethys
Children: The Oceanids and the Potamoi

Oceanus attending the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis on an Athenian, black-figure Dinos by Sophilos, c. 590 BC. (c) British Museum.

He was also the god who regulated the heavenly bodies which rose from and set into his waters. Oceanus’ wife Tethys “the Nurse” was probably envisioned distributing his nourishing waters across the earth through subterranean aquifers. Their children were the Potamoi, gods of rivers, and the Oceanids, nymphs of springs and fountains. Unlike his Titan-brothers, Oceanus did not participate in the castration of their father Uranus nor join the war against Zeus and the Olympian gods.

Head of Oceanus from Tivoli’s 2nd c. Hadrian’s Villa, Vatican Museum. (c) Carole Raddato

In the Hellenistic era, Oceanus was re-imagined as the god of the then increasingly accessible Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the old cosmological idea of a great, earth-encircling, fresh-water stream was discarded. In mosaic art he is therefore usually depicted as a sea-god or the sea itself personified, with crab-claw horns, and for attributes, a serpent, oar and school of fish. His wife Tethys, shown seated beside him, had wings on her brow, in her role as the mother of rain-clouds.

Mosaic depicting Oceanus and Tethys, Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Gaziantep. (c) Klaus-Peter Simon
Roman mosaic of Oceanus, 2nd c. AD, from Antioch. Hatay Archaeology Museum. (c) theoi.com
Roman mosaic detail of Oceanus and Tethys, 1st-2nd c. AD, from Zeugma. Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology. (c) theoi.com

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