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"Titaness of fresh-water
Member of the "Titans
""Tethys mosaic 83d40m Phillopolis mid4th century -p2fx.2.jpg
Mosaic (detail) of Tethys, from Philipopolis (modern "Shahba, "Syria), fourth-century AD, Shahba Museum.
Symbol Winged brow
Personal information
Consort "Oceanus
Offspring "Achelous, "Alpheus, "Scamander, and the other "river gods; "Metis, "Eurynome, "Doris, "Callirhoe, "Clymene, "Perse, "Idyia, "Styx, and the other "Oceanids
Parents "Uranus and "Gaia

In "Greek mythology, Tethys ("/ˈtθɪs, ˈtɛθɪs/; "Greek: Τηθύς), was a "Titan daughter of "Uranus and "Gaia, sister and wife of Titan-god "Oceanus, mother of the "Potamoi and the "Oceanids. Tethys had no active role in Greek mythology and no established cults.[1]



Tethys was one of the Titan offspring of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth).[2] "Hesiod lists her Titan siblings as "Oceanus, "Coeus, "Crius, "Hyperion, "Iapetus, "Theia, "Rhea, "Themis, "Mnemosyne, "Phoebe, and "Cronus.[3] Tethys married her brother Oceanus, an enormous river encircling the world and was by him the mother of numerous sons, the "Potamoi and numerous daughters, the "Oceanids.[4]

According to Hesiod, there were three thousand river-gods.[5] These included: "Achelous, the god of the "Achelous River and the largest river in Greece who gave his daughter in marriage to "Alcmaeon[6] and was defeated by "Heracles in a wrestling contest for the right to marry "Deianira;[7] "Alpheus, who fell in love with the "nymph "Arethusa and pursued her to "Syracuse where she was transformed into a spring by "Artemis;[8] and "Scamander who fought on the side of the "Trojans during the "Trojan War and got offended when "Achilles polluted his waters with a large number of Trojan corpses, overflowed his banks nearly drowning Achilles.[9]

According to Hesiod, there were also three thousand Oceanids.[10] These included: "Metis, "Zeus' first wife, whom Zeus impregnated with "Athena and then swallowed;[11] "Eurynome, Zeus' third wife, and mother of the "Charites;[12] "Doris, the wife of "Nereus and mother of the "Nereids;[13] "Callirhoe, the wife of "Chrysaor and mother of "Geryon;[14] "Clymene, the wife of Iapetus, and mother of "Atlas, "Menoetius, "Prometheus, and "Epimetheus;[15] "Perseis, wife of "Helios and mother of "Circe and "Aeetes;[16] "Idyia, wife of Aeetes and mother of "Medea;[17] and "Styx, goddess of the river Styx, and the wife of "Pallas and mother of "Zelus, "Nike, "Kratos and "Bia.[18]

Passages in a section of the "Iliad called the "Deception of Zeus, suggest the possibility that "Homer knew a tradition in which Oceanus and Tethys (rather than Uranus and Gaia, as in Hesiod) were the parents of the Titans.[19] Twice Homer has "Hera describe the pair as "Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung, and mother Tethys",[20] while in the same passage "Hypnos describes Oceanus as "from whom they all are sprung".[21] "Gantz, points out that "mother" may simply refer to the fact that Tethys was Hera's foster mother for a time, as Hera tells us in the lines immediately following, while the reference to Oceanus as the genesis of the gods "might be simply a formulaic epithet indicating the numberless rivers and springs descended from Okeanos" (compare with Iliad 21.195–197).[22] However, for "M. L. West, these lines suggests a myth in which Oceanus and Tethys are the "first parents of the whole race of gods."[23] Perhaps as an attempt to reconcile this possible conflict between Homer and Hesiod, "Plato, in his "Timaeus, has Uranus and Gaia as the parents of Oceanus and Tethys, and Oceanus and Tethys as the parents of Cronus and Rhea and the other Titans, as well as "Phorcys.[24]

Genealogical chart[edit]

Tethys' family tree [25]
"Uranus "Gaia "Pontus
"Oceanus TETHYS "Hyperion "Theia "Crius "Eurybia
The "Rivers The "Oceanids "Helios "Selene [26] "Eos "Astraeus "Pallas "Perses
"Cronus "Rhea "Coeus "Phoebe
"Hestia "Hera "Hades "Zeus "Leto "Asteria
"Demeter "Poseidon
"Iapetus "Clymene (or "Asia[27] "Themis (Zeus) "Mnemosyne
"Atlas [28] "Menoetius "Prometheus [29] "Epimetheus The "Horae The "Muses


Mosaic (detail) of Tethys from "Antioch, "Turkey, Hatay Archaeology Museum 9095.

Tethys played no active part in Greek mythology, the only early story concerning Tethys, is what Homer has "Hera briefly relate in the "Iliad's "Deception of Zeus passage.[30] There, Hera says that, when "Zeus was in the process of deposing "Cronus, she was given by her mother "Rhea to Tethys and Oceanus, for safekeeping, and that they "lovingly nursed and cherished me in their halls".[31] Hera relates this while dissembling that she is on her way to visit Oceanus and Tethys, in hopes of reconciling her foster parents, who angry with each other, are no longer having sexual relations.

Originally Oceanus' consort, at a later time Tethys came to be identified with the sea, and in Hellenistic and Roman poetry Tethys' name came to be used as a poetic term for the sea.[32]

The only other story involving Tethys is an apparently late astral myth concerning the polar constellation "Ursa Major (the Great Bear), which was thought to represent the "catasterism of "Callisto, who was transformed into a bear, and placed by Zeus among the stars. The myth explains why the constellation never sets below the horizon, saying that since Callisto had been Zeus's lover, she was forbidden by Tethys from "touching Ocean's deep", out of concern for her foster-child Hera, Zeus's jealous wife.[33]

In "Ovid's "Metamorphoses, Tethys turns "Aesacus into a "diving bird.[34]

Tethys was sometimes confused with another sea goddess, the sea-nymph "Thetis, the wife of "Peleus and mother of "Achilles.[35]

Tethys as Tiamat[edit]

"M. L. West detects in the "Iliad's "Deception of Zeus passage an allusion to a possible archaic myth "according to which [Tethys] was the mother of the gods, long estranged from her husband," speculating that the estrangement might refer to a separation of "the upper and lower waters ... corresponding to that of heaven and earth," which parallels the story of ""Apsū and "Tiamat in the "Babylonian cosmology, the male and female waters, which were originally united ("En. El. I. 1 ff.)," but that, "By Hesiod's time the myth may have been almost forgotten, and Tethys remembered only as the name of Oceanus' wife."[36] This possible correspondence between Oceanus and Tethys, and Apsū and Tiamat, has been noticed by several authors, with Tethys' name possibly having been derived from that of Tiamat.[37]


Mosaic (detail) of Tethys and Oceanus, excavated from the House of Menander, Daphne (modern "Harbiye, "Turkey), third century AD, "Hatay Archaeology Museum 1013.

Representations of Tethys prior to the Roman period are rare.[38] Tethys appears, identified by inscription (ΘΕΘΥΣ), as part of an illustration of the wedding of "Peleus and "Thetis on the early sixth century BC "Attic "black-figure "Erskine" "dinos by "Sophilos ("British Museum 1971.111-1.1).[39] Tethys, accompanied by "Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, follows close behind Oceanus, at the end of a procession of gods invited to the wedding. Tethys is also conjectured to be represented in a similar illustration of the wedding of Peleus and Thetis depicted on the early sixth century BC Attic black-figure "François Vase (Florence 4209).[40] Tethys probably also appeared as one of the gods fighting the "Giants in the "Gigantomachy frieze of the second century BC "Pergamon Altar.[41] Only fragments of the figure remain, a part of a "chiton, below Oceanus' left arm, and a hand clutching a large tree branch visible, behind Oceanus' head.

The above are the only artistic representations of Tethys known prior to the Roman period. However, during the second to fourth centuries AD, Tethys, sometimes with Oceanus, sometimes alone, became a relatively frequent feature of mosaics decorating baths, pools and "triclinia, in the "Greek East, particularly in "Antioch and its suburbs.[42] Her identifying attributes are wings sprouting from her forehead, a rudder/oar, and a "ketos", a creature from Greek mythology with the head of a dragon and the body of a snake.[43] The earliest of these mosaics, identified as Tethys, decorated a triclinium overlooking a pool, excavated from the House of the Calendar in Antioch, dated to shortly after AD 115 ("Hatay Archaeology Museum 850).[44] Tethys, reclining on the left, with Oceanus reclining on the right, has long hair and a winged forehead, is nude to the waist, with draped legs. A ketos twines around her raised right arm. Other mosaics of Tethys with Oceanus include: "Hatay Archaeology Museum 1013 (from the House of Menander, "Daphne),[45] Hatay Archaeology Museum 9095,[46] and "Baltimore Museum of Art 1937.126 (from the House of the Boat of Psyches: triclinium).[47]

In other mosaics, Tethys appears without Oceanus. One of these is a fourth century AD mosaic from a pool (probably a public bath) found at "Antioch, now installed in "Boston, "Massachusetts at the "Harvard Business School's Morgan Hall, and formerly at "Dumbarton Oaks, "Washington DC (Dumbarton Oaks 76.43).[48] Besides the Sophilos dinos, this is the only other representation of Tethys identified by inscription. Here Tethys, with a winged forehead, rises from the sea bare shouldered, with long dark hair parted in the middle. A golden rudder rests against her right shoulder. Others include: Hatay Archaeology Museum 9097,[49] Shahba Museum (in situ),[50] Baltimore Museum of Art 1937.118 (from the House of the Boat of Psyches: Room six),[51] and "Memorial Art Gallery 42.2.[52]

Toward the end of the period represented by these mosaics, Tethys' iconography appears to merge with that of another sea goddess "Thalassa, the Greek personification of the sea (thalassa being the Greek word for the sea).[53] Such a transformation would be consistent with the frequent use of Tethys' name as a poetic reference to the sea in Roman poetry (see above).

Modern use of the name[edit]

"Tethys, a moon of the planet "Saturn, and the prehistoric "Tethys Ocean are named after this goddess.


  1. ^ Burkert, p. 92.
  2. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 132–138; "Apollodorus, 1.1.3. Compare with "Diodorus Siculus, 5.66.1–3, which says that the Titans (including Tethys) "were born, as certain writers of myths relate, of Uranus and Gê, but according to others, of one of the "Curetes and Titaea, from whom as their mother they derive the name".
  3. ^ Apollodorus adds "Dione to this list, while Diodorus Siculus leaves out Theia.
  4. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 337–370; "Homer, Iliad 200–210, 14.300–304, 21.195–197; "Aeschylus, "Prometheus Bound 137–138 (Sommerstein, pp. 458, 459), "Seven Against Thebes 310–311 (Sommerstein, pp. 184, 185); "Hyginus, "Fabulae Preface (Smith and Trzaskoma, p. 95). For Tethys as mother of the river gods, see also: "Diodorus Siculus, 4.69.1, 72.1. For Tethys as mother of the Oceanids, see also: "Apollodorus, 1.2.2; "Callimachus, Hymn 3.40–45 (Mair, pp. 62, 63); "Apollonius of Rhodes, "Argonautica, 242–244 (Seaton, pp. 210, 211).
  5. ^ Hesiod names 25 river gods: "Nilus, "Alpheus, "Eridanos, "Strymon, "Maiandros, "Istros, "Phasis, Rhesus, "Achelous, Nessos, Rhodius, "Haliacmon, Heptaporus, "Granicus, "Aesepus, "Simoeis, "Peneus, "Hermus, "Caicus, "Sangarius, "Ladon, "Parthenius, "Evenus, Aldeskos, and "Scamander.
  6. ^ "Apollodorus, 3.7.5.
  7. ^ "Apollodorus, 1.8.1, 2.7.5.
  8. ^ Smith, s.v. "Alpheius".
  9. ^ "Homer, "Iliad 20.74, 21.211 ff..
  10. ^ Hesiod names 41 Oceanids: "Peitho, "Admete, Ianthe, Electra, "Doris, Prymno, Urania, Hippo, "Clymene, Rhodea, "Callirhoe, "Zeuxo, "Clytie, "Idyia, Pasithoe, Plexaura, Galaxaura, "Dione, Melobosis, Thoe, "Polydora, Cerceis, "Plouto, "Perseis, "Ianeira, "Acaste, Xanthe, Petraea, Menestho, Europa, "Metis, "Eurynome, "Telesto, Chryseis, "Asia, Calypso, Eudora, "Tyche, Amphirho, "Ocyrhoe, and "Styx.
  11. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 886–900; "Apollodorus, 1.3.6
  12. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 907–909; "Apollodorus, 1.3.1. Other sources give the Charites other parents, see Smith, s.v. "Charis".
  13. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 240–264; "Apollodorus, 1.2.7.
  14. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 286–288; "Apollodorus, 2.5.10.
  15. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 351, however according to "Apollodorus, 1.2.3, another Oceanid, "Asia was their mother by Iapetus;
  16. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 956–957; "Apollodorus, 1.9.1.
  17. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 958–962; "Apollodorus, 1.9.23.
  18. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 383–385; "Apollodorus, 1.2.4.
  19. ^ Gantz, pp.11–12; Hard, pp. 36–37, p. 40; Burkert, pp. 91–92. According to "Epimenides (see Fowler, p. 7), the first two beings, "Night and Aer, produced "Tartarus, who in turn produced two Titans (possibly Oceanus and Tethys) from whom came the "world egg.
  20. ^ "Homer, "Iliad 14.201, 302 [= 201].
  21. ^ "Homer, "Iliad 245.
  22. ^ Gantz, p. 11.
  23. ^ West 1997, p. 197.
  24. ^ Gantz, pp.11–12; "Plato, "Timaeus 40d–e.
  25. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 132–138, 337–411, 453–520, 901–906, 915–920; Caldwell, pp. 8–11, tables 11–14.
  26. ^ Although usually the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, as in "Hesiod, "Theogony 371–374, in the "Homeric Hymn to Hermes (4), 99–100, Selene is instead made the daughter of Pallas the son of Megamedes.
  27. ^ According to "Hesiod, "Theogony 507–511, Clymene, one of the "Oceanids, the daughters of "Oceanus and Tethys, at "Hesiod, "Theogony 351, was the mother by Iapetus of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus, while according to "Apollodorus, 1.2.3, another Oceanid, Asia was their mother by Iapetus.
  28. ^ According to "Plato, "Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of "Poseidon and the mortal "Cleito.
  29. ^ In "Aeschylus, "Prometheus Bound 18, 211, 873 (Sommerstein, pp. 444, 445 n. 2, 446, 447 n. 24, 538, 539 n. 113) Prometheus is made to be the son of "Themis.
  30. ^ Gantz, p. 28: "For Tethys, there are no myths at all, save for Hera’s comment in the ‘’Iliad’’ that she was given by Rhea to Tethys to raise when Zeus was deposing Kronos"; Burkert, p. 92: “Tethys is in no way an active figure in Greek mythology”; West 1997, p. 147: "In early poetry she is merely an inactive mythological figure who lives with Oceanus and has borne his children."
  31. ^ "Homer, "Iliad 14.201–204.
  32. ^ West 1966, p. 204 136. Τῃθύν; West 1997, p. 147; Hard, p. 40; Matthews, p. 199. According to Matthews the ""metonymy 'Tethys' = 'sea' seems to occur first in Hellenistic poetry", see for example "Lycophron, Alexandria 1069 1069 (Mair, pp. 582–583)), becoming a frequent occurrence in Latin poetry, for example appearing nine times in "Lucan.
  33. ^ Hard, p. 40; "Hyginus, "Fabulae 177; "Astronomica 2.1; "Ovid, "Fasti 2.191–192 (Frazer, pp. 70, 71); "Metamorphoses 2.508–530.
  34. ^ "Ovid, "Metamorphoses 11.784–795.
  35. ^ This happened "even in antiquity", according to Burkert, p. 92.
  36. ^ West 1966, p. 204.
  37. ^ West 1997, pp. 147–148; Burkert, pp. 91–93. For a discussion of the possibility of oriental sources for the Illiad's Deception of Zeus passage, see Budelmann and Haubold, pp. 20–22.
  38. ^ For a discussion of Tethy's iconography see Jentel, pp. 1193–1195.
  39. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 1 (detail showing figures with inscriptions: image 5 of 32); Beazley Archive 350099; Burkert, p. 202; Gantz, p. 28; Williams, pp. 27 fig. 34, 29, 31–32; Perseus: London 1971.11-1.1 (Vase); British Museum 1971,1101.1.
  40. ^ LIMC Okeanos 3; Beazley archive 300000; Perseus Florence 4209 (Vase). The identification as Tethys is accepted by Beazley, p. 27, and Gantz, p. 28, but found "unconvincing" by Carpenter p. 6. This vase is unremarked upon by Jentel, who says that the Sophilos dinos Tethys (LIMC Tethys I (S) 1) is the "seule representation de [Tethys] à l'époque archaique".
  41. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 2 (Image 5 of 56); Jentel, p. 1195; Queyrel, p. 67; Pollit, p. 96.
  42. ^ For a discussion of this group of mosaics, see Jentel, 1194–1195, which lists 15 Roman period Tethys mosaics (Tethys I (S) 3–17), and Wages, pp. 119–128. "Doro Levi identified the sea goddess in the Antioch mosaics as Thetis, however according to Wages, p. 126, "Neither the inscriptions nor the attributes in this group of mosaics support Doro Levi's identification". See also Kondoleon, p. 152 with p. 153 n. 2, which, in discussing one of these mosaics ("Baltimore Museum of Art 1937.118, see below), says that "although the Baltimore goddess does not have any other attributes or label, she is convincingly identified as Tethys" saying further (in the note) that "Levi identified her as Thetis without much evidence, but Wages makes a good argument for identifying her as Tethys". Jentel identifies these mosaics as Tethys, while noting, p. 1195, that "Dès l'Antiquité et encore actuellement, certains auteurs ont confound [Tethys] avec la Néréeid Thetis."
  43. ^ Jentel, p. 1195; Wages, p. 125.
  44. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 5; Wages, pp. 120–124, fig. 2, p. 127; "Hatay Archaeology Museum 850; Campbell 1988, pp. 60–61 (identified as Thetis).
  45. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 15; Wages, p. 123 n. 24, fig. 8, p. 127; "Hatay Archaeology Museum 1013.
  46. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 16; "Hatay Archaeology Museum 9095.
  47. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 17; Wages, p. 127; "Baltimore Museum of Art 1937.126.
  48. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 7; Wages, 119–128; Jentel, p. 1195; Campbell 1988, p. 49.
  49. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 3; Wages, pp. 125, 128; Eraslan, p. 458; "Hatay Archaeology Museum 9097.
  50. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 10; Wages, p. 122, fig. 7, p. 125; Dunabin, p. 166.
  51. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 11; Kondoleon, pp. 38–39; Wages, pp. 120–121, figs. 3, 4, p. 127; "Baltimore Museum of Art 1937.118.
  52. ^ LIMC Tethys I (S) 12; Wages, p. 127; "Memorial Art Gallery 42.2.
  53. ^ Wages, pp. 124–126; Jentel, p. 1195; Cahn, p. 1199; Campbell 1998, p. 20.


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