From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A part of the frieze depicting a woman with her back to us, looking to the left. There are other figures partially visible, including a lion.
The goddess Ceto aiding her father Pontus in the mythological war known as the Gigantomachy — c. 166–156 BC — Gigantomachy Frieze, Pergamon Altar of Zeus
Personal information
ParentsPontus and Gaia
SiblingsNereus, Thaumas, Phorcys and Eurybia
Childrenthe Gorgons, the Graeae, Echidna, Ladon

Ceto (/ˈst/; Ancient Greek: Κητώ, romanizedKētṓ, lit.'sea monster') is a primordial sea goddess in Greek mythology, the daughter of Pontus and his mother, Gaia. As a mythological figure, she is considered to be one of the most ancient deities, and bore a host of monstrous children fathered by Phorcys, another child of Gaia and Pontus. The small Solar System body 65489 Ceto was named after her, and its satellite after Phorcys.

Ceto was also variously called Crataeis[citation needed] (Κράταιις, Krataiis, from κραταιίς "mighty") and Trienus[citation needed] (Τρίενος, Trienos, from τρίενος "within three years"), and was occasionally conflated by scholars with the goddess Hecate (for whom Crataeis and Trienus are also epithets).

This goddess should not be confused with the minor Oceanid also named Ceto, or with various mythological beings referred to as ketos (plural kētē or ketea); this is a general term for "sea monster" in Ancient Greek.[1]


Besides Ceto, Gaia (Earth) and Pontus had four other offspring, Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys and Eurybia.[2] Hesiod's Theogony lists the children of Ceto and Phorcys as the two Graiae: Pemphredo and Enyo, and the three Gorgons: Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa,[3] with their last offspring being an unnamed serpent (later called Ladon, by Apollonius of Rhodes) who guards the golden apples.[4] Also according to Hesiod, the half-woman, half-snake Echidna was born to a "she" who was probably meant by Hesiod to be Ceto, (with Phorcys the likely father); however the "she" might instead refer to the Oceanid Callirhoe.[5] The mythographer Pherecydes of Athens (5th century BC) has Echidna as the daughter of Phorcys, without naming a mother.[6]

The mythographers Apollodorus and Hyginus, each name a third Graiae, as the offspring of Ceto and Phorcys, Dino and Persis respectively.[7] Apollodorus and Hyginus also make Ladon the offspring of Echidna and Typhon, rather than Ceto and Phorcys.[8]

The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius cites Phorcys and Ceto as the parents of the Hesperides, but this assertion is not repeated in other ancient sources.

Ceto is possibly the mother of the Nemean lion and the Sphinx by her grandson Orthrus.[9]

Homer refers to Thoosa, the mother of Polyphemus in the Odyssey, as a daughter of Phorcys, but does not indicate whether Ceto is her mother.


Pliny the Elder mentions worship of "storied Ceto" at Joppa (now Jaffa), in a single reference, immediately after his mention of Andromeda, whom Perseus rescued from a sea-monster. S. Safrai and M. Stern suggest the possibility that someone at Joppa established a cult of the monster under the name Ceto. As an alternative explanation, they posit that Pliny or his source misread the name cetus—or that of the Syrian goddess Derceto.[10]


  1. ^ "κῆτος" in Liddell, Henry and Robert Scott. 1996. A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised by H.S. Jones and R. McKenzie. Ninth edition, with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  2. ^ Hard, p. 50; Hesiod, Theogony 233–339 (Most, pp. 21–23); Apollodorus 1.2.6.
  3. ^ Theogony 270–276 (Most, pp. 24, 25).
  4. ^ Theogony 333–336 (Most, pp. 28, 29); Apollonius of Rhodes, 4.1396.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 270-300. Though Herbert Jennings Rose says simply that it is "not clear which parents [for Echidna] are meant", Athanassakis, p. 44, says that Ceto and Phorcys are the "more likely candidates for parents". The problem arises from the ambiguous referent of the pronoun "she" in Theogony 295. While some have read this "she" as referring to Callirhoe (e.g. Smith s.v. Echidna; Morford, p. 162), according to Clay, p. 159 n. 32, "the modern scholarly consensus" reads Ceto, see for example Most, p. 27 n. 16 ("Probably Ceto"); Gantz, p. 22 ("Phorkys and Keto produce Echidna"); Caldwell, pp. 7, 46 lines 295–303 ("presumably Keto"); West, p. 249 line 295 ("probably Keto"); Grimal, s.v. Echidna ("Phorcys and Ceto").
  6. ^ Pherecydes, fr. 7 Fowler = FGrHist 3 F 7 (Fowler, p. 278); Hošek, p. 678.
  7. ^ Apollodorus 2.4.2; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface § p.9.
  8. ^ Apollodorus 2.5.11; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface § p.35, 151.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 326–327. Who is meant as the mother is unclear, the problem arising from the ambiguous referent of the pronoun "she" in line 326 of the Theogony, see Clay, p.159, note 34
  10. ^ Colitur illic fabulosa Ceto. Pliny, Book 5, chapter 14, §69; this same paragraph will be referred to as v.14, v.69, V.xiv.69; and v.13 (one of the chapter divisions is missing in some MSS). For Ceto as a transferred name, see Rackham's Loeb translation; for emendations, see The Jewish people in the first century. Historical geography, political history, social, cultural and religious life and institutions. Ed. by S. Safrai and M. Stern in co-operation with D. Flusser and W. C. van Unnik, Vol II, p. 1081, and Oldfather's translation of Pliny (Derceto).


  • Athanassakis, Apostolos N, Hesiod: Theogony, Works and days, Shield, JHU Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8018-7984-5.
  • Apollodorus, The Library with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. ISBN 0-674-99135-4. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
  • Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, edited and translated by William H. Race, Loeb Classical Library No. 1, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-674-99630-4. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Caldwell, Richard, Hesiod's Theogony, Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company (June 1, 1987). ISBN 978-0-941051-00-2.
  • Clay, Jenny Strauss, Hesiod's Cosmos, Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-521-82392-0.
  • Fowler, R. L., Early Greek Mythography: Volume 1: Text and Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0198147404.
  • Hyginus, Gaius Julius, Fabulae, in The Myths of Hyginus, edited and translated by Mary A. Grant, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960. Online version at ToposText.
  • Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
  • Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 978-0-631-20102-1.
  • Hard, Robin (2004), The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 9780415186360. Google Books.
  • Hesiod, Theogony from The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
  • Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. ISBN 978-0674995611. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
  • Morford, Mark P. O., Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology, Eighth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-530805-1.
  • Most, G.W., Hesiod, Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia, Edited and translated by Glenn W. Most, Loeb Classical Library No. 57, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2018. ISBN 978-0-674-99720-2. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Rose, Herbert Jennings, "Echidna" in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Hammond and Scullard (editors), Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869117-3
  • Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873).
  • West, M. L., Hesiod: Theogony, Oxford University Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Bartelink, Dr. G.J.M. (1988). Prisma van de mythologie. Utrecht: Het Spectrum.