Tethys (mythology)

in Greek mythology, Tethys (Greek Τηθύς), daughter of Uranus and Gaia (Hesiod, Theogony lines 136, 337 and Bibliotheke 1.2) was a Titaness and sea goddess who was both sister and wife of Oceanus.[1] She was mother of the chief rivers of the world known to the Greeks, such as the Nile, the Alpheus, the Maeander, and about three thousand daughters called the Oceanids.[2] Considered as an embodiment of the waters of the world she may be seen as a counterpart of Thalassa, embodiment of the sea.

Tethys plays virtually no part in Greek literary texts or Greek religion and cult. Walter Burkert[3] notes the presence of Tethys in the episode of Iliad XIV that the Ancients called the “Deception of Zeus“, where Hera, to mislead Zeus, says she wants to go to Oceanus, “origin of the gods” and Tethys “the mother”. Burkert[4] sees in the name a transformation of Akkadian tiamtu or tâmtu, “the sea”, which is recognizable in Tiamat. One of the few representations of Tethys that is securely identified by an accompanying inscription is the Late Antique (fourth century CE) mosaic from the flooring of a thermae at Antioch, now at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC.[5] In the Dumbarton Oaks mosaic the bust of Tethys, surrounded by fishes, is rising bare-shouldered from the waters; against her shoulder rests a golden ship’s rudder. Gray wings sprout from her forehead, as in the mosaics illustrated above and below.

During the war against the Titans, Tethys raised Rhea as her god-child, but she had no active cults in historic times.

Tethys has sometimes been confused[6] with the sea-nymph Thetis, the wife of Peleus and mother of Achilles.

Hera was not pleased with the placement of Callisto and Arcas in the sky, as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, so she asked her nurse, Tethys, to help. Tethys, a marine goddess, caused the constellations to forever circle the sky and never drop below the horizon, hence explaining why they are circumpolar.

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


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