As an area surrounded by the sea, the Greeks had countless myths on the topics of the water, ocean and the sea. So obviously this is going to mean there are whole host of gods associated with these settings.
In Greek mythology there are two important branches of the Greek pantheon family tree from which we find the sea gods and goddesses.
There is the branch formed from the union of Uranus, the sky god, and Gaia, the goddess of the earth. And there is the branch formed from the union of Pontus, the primordial god of the sea, and Gaia. We have broken down this list into the two branches in an attempt to keep it simple. But be aware, this topic is by no means straight forward and there is a lot of crossover, confusion and differing myths and accounts.
- Ocean, Sea and Water Gods in Greek Mythology
- 1. Pontus and Gaia Family Branch
- 2. Uranus and Gaia Family Branch
- 2. Random Sea Gods and Goddesses
- Final Thoughts
Ocean, Sea and Water Gods in Greek Mythology
1. Pontus and Gaia Family Branch
Pontus – The Embodiment of the Sea
Pontus was the son of Gaia and did not have a father. Many of the earlier Greek primordial gods were born without a father with only a mother, the earth goddess Gaia. Gaia was also the consort of Pontus and together they had a number of children. There was Nereus who was also known as the Old Man of the Sea, Thaumas, Phorcys and Ceto, Eurybia and Aegaeon. Pontus also married Thalassa and together their children were the fish.
Pontus is seen as the embodiment of the sea rather than a god who lives in the realm of the sea. Much like how Gaia is the earth and Uranus is the sky.
Nereus – The Old Man of the Sea
Nereus was the son of Pontus and Gaia and was believed to be the god of the fish. He was married to Doris and together they had 50 Nereid children. One of these Nereid was Amphitrite who would go on to become the wife of Poseidon. The Greeks believed Nereus to have the form of an old man. He could change his shape at will.
He came into contact with the hero Heracles when he was in search for the apples of Hesperides.
Thaumas – God of Sea Wonders
Thaumas was the son of Pontus and Gaia and the Greeks believed him to be the god of the wonders of the sea. He was also the husband of Electra an Oceanid. Together they had a number of daughters, there was Iris, goddess of the rainbow, and the Whirlwinds, aka the Harpies.
Thaumas was overthrown by the olympian god Poseidon during the the great Titan wars.
Phorcys and Ceto – God of Hidden Dangers and Goddess of Sea Monsters
Phorcys and Ceto were the children of Pontus and Gaia. Phorcys was the god of the hidden dangers of the deep and Ceto was the goddess of sea monsters. Phorcys married his sister Ceto and together they had a number of sea creatures and monsters as children.
These children include Skylla, a grab monster that ate sailors, Ladon, a 100-headed sea serpent, and the Gorgons, the most famous being the monster Medusa.
Eurybia – Goddess of the Mastery of the Sea
Eurybia was the daughter of Pontus and Gaia and was said to be the goddess of mastery of the sea. She is therefore said to have power over the winds, the seasons and constellations – a necessary tool for navigating.
She was the wife of the Titan Crius and together they had a number of different important children. Astraios, Perses and Pallas.
Aegaeon – God of Storms and the Aegean Sea
Aegaeon was the son of Pontus and Gaia. Aegaeon was the god of storms in the Aegean sea, from which he got his name. The Aegean sea was to the west of Greece and is very important in many myths of the time. It was said that Aegaeon lived deep under the sea.
His name means stormy one and he was very important in the Titanomarchy, the battle between the Olympian gods and the Titan gods. Aegaeon fought on the side of the Titans.
Amphitrite – Goddess of the Sea and Wife of Poseidon
Amphitrite was the daughter of Nereus and Doris. She was one of the 50 Nereid daughters. She was also the wife of Poseidon, the Olympian god of the sea, and the mother to Triton. She herself, was the Goddess of the Sea and ruled alongside her husband.
She was the mother of many of the sea creatures including the dolphins, seals and tropical fish. She had a passion for life and loved to dance and frolic in the waves as they crashed into the land.
Poseidon saw her dancing one day and fell madly in love with her. He tried to seduce her bu she fled deep into the ocean. He then showered her with many gifts including pearls, beautiful corals and all the sunken treasure she could wish for. This was enough though.
Finally, in desperation Poseidon created the dolphin and it made a strong case for the marriage to Amphitrite. She eventually agreed. She loved the dolphin and would have the creature pull her chariot around the ocean.
2. Uranus and Gaia Family Branch
Oceanus – Titan God of the Ocean
Oceanus was the Titan son of Uranus and Gaia. Oceanus was the Titan God of the Ocean and was said to be the source of all the fresh water on earth. He is often described as having the body or appearance of a fish. He actually married his own sister Tethys and together they gave birth to many children. The most important being the 3000 daughters called the Oceanids and the 3000 sons who were called the Potomai.
Oceanus was one of six Titan brothers. His 5 brothers conspired together to overthrow their father Uranus, but Oceanus and his wife sat out the conflict. Later, when Zeus overthrew the brother of Oceanus, Cronus, Oceanus again did not get involved.He was quite the pacifist. Oceanus continue to play a part throughout the many ages of the Greek universe. He even played a role in the 12 labours of Heracles when he helped the hero to cross the ocean.
The Potamoi and The Oceanids – Gods of Rivers and Streams
The Potamoi were the sons of Oceanus and Tethys while the Oceanids were the daughters. They were the gods of the rivers and streams of the earth. There were said to be around 3000 Oceanids and 3000 Potamoi in total. The Oceanids were the goddesses of small streams and the rain, while the Potamoi were gods of the major rivers.
To give you a better idea, there was one Potamoi called Asterio, he was a river god of Argos. And another called Neilos, the river god of Egypt. While there was a Oceanids called Styx who lived in the underworld. They were basically everywhere. Some of the river gods interacted with the humans and demigods. A river god called Achelous was jealous of Heracles and he tried to kill him by first flooding a river to drown him, then later transforming into one of another animal to kill him.
The Naiads – Nymphs of Fresh Water
The Naiads were the daughters of the Potamoi. They were Nymphs of fresh water. They therefore lived in any of the rivers, lakes, and springs on earth. It was believed that the Naiads were deities of fertility because their fresh water was so vital to feed the trees, plants and farmland across the land.
The Naiads were thought to belong to one of 5 groups. The Pegaeae of the springs, the Potameides of the rivers, the Limnades of the lakes, the Crinaeae of the fountains and Eleionomae of the marshes.
The Naiads were said to be very beautiful and many married kings and heroes across Greece. They would also give their names to many of the towns and cities.
Poseidon – God of the Sea, Earthquakes and Horses
Poseidon was the son of Cronus and Rhea, two of the Titans. Like many of the other Olympian gods he held domain over a great many realms. His were the sea, earthquakes, floods, drought and horses. He would wear a green robe and had a pearl crown. He would ride around on a chariot pulled by dolphins. He was a very temperamental god and was forever involved in different feuds with practically anyone.
In some myths he is credited with creating many sea creatures including the octopus and the blowfish. But some of his more famous creations are the Dolphin which he gave as a gift to Amphitrite and the horse which he gave to Demeter. He was always trying to seduce one women or another and he would sire a huge number of children. One of the more famous sea god children was Triton.
Triton – Son of Poseidon
Triton was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. He had the tail of a dolphin along with green hair and beard. He had the skin of a fish. He would carry a trident and a shell which he used to calm the seas.
He was involved in a number of important Greek myths. In one he met the band of Argonauts when a great wave swept their boat inland. He had disguised himself as a man called Euryphylus. He redicted them and gave them a piece of earth. Later, they dropped this earth into the sea and it became the island of Thera.
There is also another story of Dionysus getting into the a fight with Triton in order to defend the honour of some women, Triton lost the fight. It was said that Triton lived in a golden palace in the depths of the Aegean Sea.
2. Random Sea Gods and Goddesses
Palaemon – Protector of Sailors
Palaemon was a minor sea god. His role was that of protector of sailors. He wasn’t always a god though, he was originally called Melikertes and was the son of Athamas and Ino.
The story goes that his mother had been given the child god Dionysus to look after. He was the son of Zeus from an affair with another women and Zeus’ wife Hera was jealous of the boy. She decided to punish Ino and drove her mad. One day, she was in a desperate state and she decided to jump, along with her son Melikertes from the cliffs into the ocean. The other Olympian gods took pity on her and transformed both her and her son into sea gods.
The Sirens – Seducers of Sailors
The Sirens were the three daughters of Achelous, a river god, and Melpomene, one of the muses. They were said to be both half bird and half women. They were once fully human and the handmaidens of Persephone. She was kidnapped by Hades and her mother Demeter gave them wings so they could search for her daughter. They eventually gave up the search and settled on the island of Anthemoessa in their new form.
It was here that they would make a name for themselves. The story goes that the Sirens would sit by the rocks and sing seductively to any sailors who passed by. Anyone who heard the song would become sleepy and allow their ships to crash into the rocks and they would all die. The great hero Odysseus had to pass by the Sirens but he had been forewarned about their power. He had his sailors stuff wax into their ears and then tied himself to the ship’s mast. They were able to successful pass by the sirens but many other sailor did not.
The Greeks were famous seafarers so it is no wonder that they developed so many myths and stories about the sea. An understanding of the behaviour of the sea was crucial to their existence. But, the weather and the sea can be cruel and so they developed these stories to explain some experience or another they had at sea.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the article. Thanks!