Pontus (mythology)

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This article is about the Greek god. For other uses, see Pontus (disambiguation).

In Greek mythology, Pontus (/ˈpɒntəs/; Greek: Πόντος Pontos, "Sea")[1] was an ancient, pre-Olympian sea-god, one of the Greek primordial deities. Pontus was Gaia's son and, according to the Greek poet Hesiod, he was born without coupling.[2] For Hesiod, Pontus seems little more than a personification of the sea, ho pontos, "the Road", by which Hellenes signified the Mediterranean Sea.[3] With Gaia, he fathered Nereus (the Old Man of the Sea), Thaumas (the awe-striking "wonder" of the Sea, embodiment of the sea's dangerous aspects), Phorcys and his sister-consort Ceto, and the "Strong Goddess" Eurybia. With the sea goddess Thalassa (whose own name simply means "sea" but is derived from a Pre-Greek root), he fathered the Telchines and all sea life.[2][4][5][6][7]

Depiction of Pontos at the Constanţa Museum of National History
Depiction of Pontos at the Constanţa Museum of National History

In a Roman sculpture of the 2nd century AD, Pontus, rising from seaweed, grasps a rudder with his right hand and leans on the prow of a ship. He wears a mural crown, and accompanies Fortuna, whose draperies appear at the left, as twin patron deities of the Black Sea port of Tomis in Moesia.

Quotes from classical literature[edit]

She [Gaia] bore also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love.
— Hesiod, Theogony (130)[2]
And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts. And yet again he got great Thaumas and proud Phorcys, being mated with Earth, and fair-cheeked Ceto and Eurybia who has a heart of flint within her.
— Hesiod, Theogony (231–239)[2]

Family Tree[edit]

Main article: Greek sea gods
Pontus Thalassa
Nereus Thaumas Phorcys Ceto Eurybia The Telchines Halia Aphrodite [8]
The Phorcydes
The Children of
Phorcys (and Ceto)
Echidna The Gorgons[9] Graeae Ladon The Hesperides Scylla[10] The Sirens Thoösa


Pontus in an ancient Roman mosaic, Tunisia
  1. ^ Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *pont-eh1-, *pn̩t-h1, "path" (see R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 1221).
  2. ^ a b c d Evelyn-White, Hugh G. Ed. (1914). The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation. London: William Heinemann Ltd. 
  3. ^ The Black Sea was the Greeks' ho pontos euxeinos, the "sea that welcomes strangers."
  4. ^ Atsma, Aaron J. "Theoi Project: Pontus". Theoi Project. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Rengel, Marian (2009). Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 9781604134124. 
  6. ^ Morford, Mark P. O. (1999). Classical Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 98, 103. ISBN 9780195143386. 
  7. ^ Turner, Patricia (2001). Dictionary of Ancient Deities. Oxford University Press. p. 387. ISBN 9780195145045. 
  8. ^ There are two major conflicting stories for Aphrodite's origins: Hesiod (Theogony) claims that she was "born" from the foam of the sea after Cronus castrated Uranus, thus making her Uranus' daughter; but Homer (Iliad, book V) has Aphrodite as daughter of Zeus and Dione. According to Plato (Symposium 180e), the two were entirely separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos.
  9. ^ Most sources describe Medusa as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, though the author Hyginus (Fabulae Preface) makes Medusa the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto.
  10. ^ Various Greek myths account for Scylla's origins and fate. According to some such as Eustathius, she was one of the children of Phorcys and Ceto. Other sources, including Stesichorus, cite her parents as Triton and Lamia. Hyginus says Scylla was the daughter of the river god Crataeis.

See also[edit]