Christina is an Egyptian writer and translator who teaches at Al-Alsun Faculty, Ain Shams University.
The sea is always a source of wonder and mystery for everyone. The ancient Greeks were divinely inspired by the sea. They reflected on this vast world with its charms and uncertainties, turning it into tangible beings and interesting stories they could relate to. Philosophers call this sympatheia—a connectedness with the cosmos. Sea deities in Greek mythology are countless, for every sea had a minor god ruling it. This article will highlight three tales of the top inspiring sea deities in Greek myths.
Poseidon is the Lord of the sea, the god of drought floods, earthquakes, and horses. He is the brother of Zeus (the benevolent god of the skies or heaven), and Hades (the monstrous god of hell). The story goes like this: Cronus and Rhea give birth to Poseidon who becomes one of the major Olympian deities. After the Olympians win the war against the Titans, a scheme is organized by Poseidon and his brothers, Zeus and Hades, to depose their father, Cronus, and divide the world so that each one of them controls a certain domain.
To avoid war, they resorted to drawing straws from a pile so that the god who draws the longest straw rules the skies and that who draws the shortest one takes the underworld. Fair enough, Poseidon draws the middle straw and becomes the ruler of the sea, Hades gets the underworld, and victorious Zeus gets the kingdom of the skies. Moral of the story? Maybe the lesson we can learn is that all disagreements can be peacefully resolved when we talk things out justly? Except that the talks don’t end as peacefully as expected, for The Giants (monsters with multiple heads and eyes) declare a bloody war on the reconciled brothers.
Amphitrite is Poseidon’s wife, a nereid, goddess of the sea, and the female personification of the sea. When Poseidon declares his wish to marry Amphitrite, she attempts to flee in the hopes of protecting her virginity. Rather than pursue her himself, Poseidon sends his dolphins to bring her back. In Greek mythology, dolphins are perceived as gentle spirits in service of the sea god. There are two different versions of this story, one being that the Dolphins kidnap Poseidon and bring Amphitrite back by force, and the other being that one dolphin manages to convince her to come back and marry Poseidon. As a result, dolphins receive many plaudits from the sea gods, earning a specific place in the sky as constellations. Roman poets say that the ingenious dolphin who convinces Amphitrite gets awarded with the task of organizing the wedding of the two gods!
Anyways, Amphitrite marries Poseidon and becomes the queen of the sea. The marriage raises the prominence of Amphitrite from a nymph to a queen, and together they have two children. Do they live happily ever after? Well, no, the marriage of the gods is inundated with infidelities and problems. To exemplify, while married to Amphitrite, Poseidon gets involved in an affair with nymph Scylla. Amphitrite eventually finds out and transforms Scylla into the hideous monster of the sea that we call a Godzilla. After being a beautiful nymph, Scylla is now a monster with 12 feet, six heads on elongated snaky necks, and sharklike teeth. Quite a revenge, isn’t it? Moved by sympathy, Poseidon steps in and transforms Scylla into a coastal cliff. Poseidon again cheats on his wife with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Oceanus is a Titan who is not just the greatest lord of the oceans, but the ocean itself. Homer depicts him in The Iliad as the god, “from whom all rivers are and the entire sea and all springs and all deep wells have their waters of him.” Oceanus remains only amongst the waters and therefore does not possess a physical human body. He is not a tangible being like Poseidon who, therefore, earns more recognition by people; Oceanus is, more or less, a symbol that not everyone can understand. Although Oceanus is a Titan god, which means that he is bigger than normal gods, he only rules River Okeanos, leaving the rest of seas and rivers to Poseidon.
Oceanus loves to keep to himself most of the time. He is totally indifferent to the political uprisings and feuds about him, confining himself to his own peaceful world in the sea. He doesn’t even pick sides during the Olympian revolution. The character of Oceanus is an emblem of contentment and simplicity as he never cares about the ranks of others, their praise, or their anger. He views success as peace of mind, knowing that he does a great job providing everyone with water (the source of life). Even if people don’t recognise him, he still finds happiness in doing his work conscientiously.
Although Zeus doesn’t like Oceanus’ indifference, he doesn’t tangle with him because there is no reason to fight a peaceful man even if his manners are irritating. Oceanus knows that Zeus has never liked his indecisiveness, wondering about the dangerous lightning of Zeus that can smash anyone by a word of Zeus’ mouth. However, he prefers to be impartial, knowing that he is the source of water and that by destroying him, Zeus will be killing everyone. The tale of Oceanus is indeed an inspiring story that sheds light on self-confidence, courage, duty, and more. He reminds us of the story of Diogenes, the poor philosopher who used to sit under the sun, relishing its warmth. One day, Alexandre the Great told Diogenes to ask him for a favour, to which Diogenes responded, “stay aside, you are blocking the sunlight.” Oceanus did the same by avoiding war just to enjoy the sea.
© 2022 Christina Aziz Hanna