An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links
to Mythologies, Fairy Tales & Folklore,
Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Common Themes, East & West

of the SEA:

Glaucos, Oracular God of the Sea
© Eric Marette at Mytholoria
[Used with permission -- go to his site for more wonderfully mythic art]

This is the Glaucos page from Eric Marette (see directly above) with interesting data on this deity (a one-time human fisherman).  Since I'm not familiar with this deity, I went through over a hundred entries in several search engines and discovered that about 98% were in French.  The artist of the above painting is also French, by the way -- clearly, Glaucos appeals more to the French-speaking world than to the English!  I don't know why.  But Eric's link will at least give you the mythic basics.
This is a two line entry on Glaucos from E. Cobham Brewer (1810–1897).  It comes from his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898).  Given its brevity, I may as well quote it here and save you the trouble of linking:
Glaucus (of Bśotia):
A fisherman who instructed Apollo in soothsaying. He jumped into the sea, and became a marine god. Milton alludes to him in his Comus (line 895):

     “[By] old soothsaying Glaucus’ spell.”


[Further data added 5/17/01]:  This elderly sea-sage has been haunting me since I annotated the above pair of minimal Glaucos links four days ago.  I was especially intrigued by his oracular connection as well as by his transformation into a sea-deity.  So I went in search of him in my own collection of books.  Here's what I found.....

First, the Greek word, glaukos, means the "gleaming" effect of silvery, greenish-grey, or greenish-blue colors.  So, at least at the level of etymology, sea-god Glaucos reflects the sea in her elusive beauty of ever-changing hues.  According to Robert Graves (The Greek Myths, 90.j,7), Glaucos was the son of Poseidon [Roman, Neptune] and an unnamed mortal woman.  He grew up as a fisherman who loved the sea.  By accident, he happened to find a grassy patch of herbs left over from the Golden Age -- this mysterious Herb of Immortality had originally been sown by Cronus [Roman, Saturn], an ancient sickle-carrying grain god who was later associated with time and death.  Glaucos discovered that if he laid dead fish in this patch of herbs, they were restored to life.  Curious, he tasted the herb for himself and became immortal (I assume it was this herb which also opened oracular realms to him since nothing else in the story accounts for this gift).  Loving the sea as he did, he leaped into it, preferring to make his home within its depths instead of remaining on land.  Like his father Poseidon, he had many love affairs, the most famous of which was with Scylla.

Graves concludes: "His underwater home lies off the coast of Delos [a Cretan island], and every year he visits all the ports and islands of Greece, issuing oracles much prized by sailors and fishermen -- Apollo himself is described as Glaucus's pupil."  (FYI: Ancient Mesopotamia also had an Herb of Life, or Immortality, but it lay in sea-depths, not on land; Gilgamesh found -- and lost it.)
[Added 5/17/01]:  After adding the above data from Robert Graves and other non-web sources, I came across a more detailed link on Glaucos from Roula Papageorgiou-Haska.  The author provides additional information, including an interesting Argonaut connection.
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is a simple, 5-line entry on Oceanus, a sea-god who was the eldest of the pre-Olympian Titans.
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is about Oceanus' sister-wife, the sea-goddess Tethys.  The entry is by Ryan Tuccinardi for the Encyclopedia Mythica, but the passage is so brief that I'll save you the link-time and quote it here:
Tethys.  The personification of the fertile ocean. She married her brother Oceanus and had over 3000 children by him, they were the springs, lakes, rivers of the world.  Tethys was the god-mother of Rhea and raised her during the civil war between the Titans and the Olympians.
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is Carlos Parada's page on the Oceanids, the sea-daughters of Oceanus and Tethys.  It's a long page divided by Oceanid names and non-web references to ancient texts where the specific Oceanid is found.  Sometimes Parada gives a minimal description, sometimes not.
[Added 5/17/01]:  Returning to Oceanus, this is Carlos Parada's brief but very interesting page -- there are passages from Greek literature, an llustration of a bronze Oceanus, and fine hypertext.  Here's an opening portion showing us a deity who is quite different from the moody, sometimes violent Poseidon, who will later replace his older Titan sibling:
...Oceanus, one of the TITANS, is sometimes considered to be at the origin of all things.  This is the god of the backward-flowing river Ocean, which bounds the earth and from which all rivers flow and every sea, and all the springs and wells. In order to reach the Underworld it is necessary to cross this river:
"..when in your ship you have now crossed the stream of Oceanus, where is a level shore and the groves of Persephone...beach your boat there by Ocean's swirling streams and march on into Hades' dark house." [Circe to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 10.510]
When the TITANS revolted against their father, which resulted in the Castration of Uranus, Oceanus was the only one among the TITANS, who did not attack his father.  The rather mild Oceanus felt compassion for Prometheus 1, and came to see him when he was chained in Caucasus....

Mosaic, early 3rd century AD: Tunisia in Northern Africa
                 (This comes from a well written & illustrated TimeLife series,
                    MYTH & MANKIND: Titans & Olympians, 1997:49)
[Added 5/17/01]:  I briefly mentioned Poseidon above, but it's time now to turn to him in more depth.  From Paige Sellers for the Encyclopedia Mythica comes a good entry (with hypertext) on this sometimes quirky Olympian god of the sea.  Although Poseidon took over the sea-realm from Oceanus (one of the Titans, Golden Age deities who were defeated by their younger siblings, the Olympians), Poseidon's own origins seem to have been on land, not sea.  As Sellers writes:
...Poseidon is Greek for "Husband" (possibly of wheat), and therefore it is thought that he and Demeter (goddess of wheat) are a good match because they reign as the god and goddess of fertility....
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is a too-brief, but fascinating essay, "Poseidon - Prehistoric Hellenes and the Sea" by Roula Papageorgiou-Haska.  The author includes a look at Poseidon's iconography:
...They used to paint him as an old white-bearded man with fair-white hair and blue eyes, a peaceful look but sometimes a wrathful one, with a band round his head -like Zeus- sometimes naked and sometimes in clothes, carrying a trident in his hand which Cyclopes had given to him before the Titanomachy....
Then Papageorgiou-Haska makes a very nice distinction between Oceanus, who is an all-encompassing ocean-deity, and Poseidon, who seems to be less an undifferentiated ocean-only god than a deity of oceanic-like phenomena, whether on land or sea:
...However, Poseidon should not be strictly connected with the narrow sense of the "Sea" since he captures the driving-force of every phenomenon occurring either at the bottom of it or on its surface: earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons etc. His ability to agitate the water indicates his connection with the sea-storms as well as with the seismic-waves which are usually caused after an earthquake tremor. Moreover, Poseidon's quarrels with other Olympian gods (Poseidon-Athena, Poseidon-Hera) take place in regions which are in or near seismic zones even today or were such in the past....
[Added 5/17/01]:   Finally, this is Carlos Parada's exhaustively thorough, illustrated, hypertext-rich page on Poseidon.
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is a brief entry on the Queen of the Sea, Amphitrite, who was Poseidon's unwilling bride.  Sometimes her parents are named as sea-deities Oceanus and Tethys; other sources say Nereus (see directly below) and Doris.  (For an 18th century painting, try this link:
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is a page on Nereus, the kindly, oracular "old man of the Sea" who used a genius for shapeshifting as a ruse to avoid being caught and asked questions about the future.  He is usually associated with the Mediterranean or Aegean seas.  Earth (Gaia) is his mother.   Hesiod names Pontus (the Black Sea) as his father.  This particular link goes to a brief entry from the Encyclopedia Mythica.
[Added 5/17/01]:  This is Carlos Parada's page on theNereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus (the "Old Man of the Sea") and his wife, Doris.  There's a great section on "remarkable" Nereids with rich hypertext for those who wish to explore the stories further.
[Added 5/17/01]: This is "Water Deities" from Bulfinch, whose overblown translations are of little use to scholars.  However, if you're looking for quick, easy data, scroll halfway down -- the text is enriched with good links to current sources.


[Added 5/17/01]:  From Bob Fisher comes an essay on the Naiades, nymphs of fresh water lakes and rivers.  First, to clear up confusion on the many kinds of water nymphs, he writes:
The Naiades (Naiads) (Nayads) were nymphs of bodies of fresh water and were one of the three main classes of water nymphs - the others being the Nereides (nymphs of the Mediterranean Sea) and the Oceanides (nymphs of the oceans). The Naiades presided over rivers, streams, brooks, springs, fountains, lakes, ponds, wells, and marshes....
Then he turns to the naiad's relationship to the waters she guarded.  Considering today's growing problems with bodies of water killed by pollution, dams, global-warming-caused droughts, and other forms of human manipulation, the passage is especially poignant:
...The Naiad was intimately connected to her body of water and her very existence seems to have depended on it. If a stream dried up, its Naiad expired. The waters over which Naiades presided were thought to be endowed with inspirational, medicinal, or prophetic powers. Thus the Naiades were frequently worshipped by the ancient Greeks in association with divinities of healing, fertility and growth....
In relationship to their association with fertility, Fisher comments:
...Like all the nymphs, the Naiades were in many ways female sex symbols of the ancient world and played the part of both the seduced and the seducer.....
I found it an interesting little essay.  Fisher also gives a useful list of specific Naiades mentioned in ancient Greek texts and he provides links to these beings, where available.


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Menu of Common Themes, East & West:

Animal Guides
Animal Deaths in Europe: Of Cows & Madness
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Creation Myths I
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Floods & Rainbows: Mythologies & Science
Water Goddesses & Gods
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Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Birthing [forthcoming]
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Copyright © 2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
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Page designed & launched 13 May 2001
Latest Updates: 17 May 2001.