Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nilus, the potamos of the Nile River, depicted in a Coptic tapestry

The Potamoi (Ancient Greek: Ποταμοί, romanizedPotamoí, lit.'Rivers') are the gods of rivers and streams of the earth in Greek mythology.


The river gods were the 3000 sons of the great earth-encircling river Oceanus and his wife Tethys and the brothers of the Oceanids.[1] They were also the fathers of the Naiads.[citation needed] The river gods were depicted in one of three forms: a man-headed bull, a bull-headed man with the body of a serpent-like fish from the waist down, or as a reclining man with an arm resting upon an amphora jug pouring water.[citation needed]

Notable river gods include:

  • Achelous, the god of the Achelous River, the largest river in Greece, who gave his daughter in marriage to Alcmaeon,[2] and was defeated by Heracles in a wrestling contest for the right to marry Deianira.[3]
  • Alpheus, who fell in love with the nymph Arethusa, pursuing her to Syracuse, where she was transformed into a spring by Artemis.[4]
  • Asopus, father of many naiads. His daughter Aegina was carried off to the island Aegina by Zeus. Another daughter, Sinope, tricked three amorous gods into leaving her virginity intact.
  • Inachus, the first king of Argos and progenitor of the Argive line through his son Argus.
  • Nilus, Egyptian river god and the father of numerous daughters who mingled with the descendants of Inachus, forming a dynasty of kings in Egypt, Libya, Arabia and Ethiopia.
  • Peneus, river god of Thessaly flowing from the foot of Pindus. He was the father of Daphne and Stilbe, love interests of the god Apollo.
  • Scamander, who fought on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan War, and was offended when Achilles polluted his waters with the a large number of Trojan corpses. In response, he overflowed his banks, nearly drowning Achilles.[5]

Ancient Greek poet Hesiod mentioned several river gods by name, along with their origin story, in Theogonia[6] ("the birth of the gods"):

And Tethys bare to Ocean eddying rivers, Nilus, and Alpheus, and deep-swirling Eridanus, Strymon, and Meander, and the fair stream of Ister, and Phasis, and Rhesus, and the silver eddies of Achelous, Nessus, and Rhodius, Haliacmon, and Heptaporus, Granicus, and Aesepus, and holy Simois, and Peneus, and Hermus, and Caicus fair stream, and great Sangarius, Ladon, Parthenius, Euenus, Ardescus, and divine Scamander. — Theogony, Hesiod. Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White (1914)[7][8]

List of Potamoi[edit]

The following are the sons of Oceanus and Tethys:[9]

Name of river River god Sources Location Son of Oceanus and Tethys
Hes. Ovid Apol. Plut. Hyg. Pau. Others
Achelous or Akheloios Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Callimachus, Apollonius Rhodius, Diodorus Siculus, Statius, Hyginus, Plato, Aristotle Aetolia
Acheron Underworld and Thesprotia *presumably
Acis Changed into a river Sicily son of Pan and nymph Symaethis
Acragas ?[citation needed] Sicily
Aeas Epirus *
Aegaeus Apollonius Scheria (Corcyra) *
Aesar Strabo Tyrrhenia or Etruria *
Aesepus Troad
Almo Latium *
Alpheus Arcadia
Amnisos Apollonius, Callimachus Crete *
Amphrysos Thessaly *
Anapus Nonnus Sicily *
Anauros ?[citation needed] Thessaly
Anigros Strabo Elis *
Apidanus Thessaly *
Arar River named after Gallia Celtica (Celtic Gaul)
Araxes River named after Armenia son of Pylus
Ardescus Thrace
Arnos Strabo Etruria *
Ascanius Antoninus Mysia *
Asopus Boeotia and Argos ✓; some accounts, son of Zeus and Eurynome or Poseidon and either Pero or Celusa
Asterion Argos *
Axenus or Axius Paeonia and Macedonia
Baphyras ?[citation needed] Pieria
Borysthenes Antoninus Scythia *
Brychon Lycophron Chersonnese *
Caicinus Bruttium *
Caicus Teuthrania, Mysia
Cayster Lydia *
Cebren Parthenius Troad *
Cephissus Phocis, Attica, Argos
Chremetes Nonnus Libya *
Cladeus ?[citation needed] Elis *
Clitumnus ?[citation needed] Umbria *
Cocytus Oppian Underworld and Thesprotia *
Cratais [citation needed] *
Crinisus Virgil, Lycophron, Servius, Aelian Sicily *
Cydnos Nonnus Cilicia *
Cytheros ?[citation needed] Elis *
Elisson ?[citation needed] Statius Achaea *
Enipeus Thessaly *
Erasinus Argos *
Eridanus Attica
Eridanus Virgil, Nonnus Hyperborea,
Erymanthus Aelian Attica *
Euphrates Assyria
Eurotas ✓ River named after Laconia son of Lelex and Cleocharia or of Myles
Evenus or Aetolia ✓ ; some accounts, a mortal son of Ares and either Demodice or Stratonice who flung himself to the river Lycormas
Ganges India *
Granicus Troad
Haliacmon Macedonia
Halys Apollonius, Valerius Flaccus Paphlygonia and Pontos *
Hebrus Lucian Ciconia, Thrace *
Heptaporus Troad
Hermus Lydia *
Hydaspes Nonnus India ✓; son of Thaumas and Electra
Ilissos Plato Attica *
Imbrasos Athenaeus Samos *
Inachus Argos
Indus India or Caria
Inopos Callimachus Delos *
Ismenus Boeotia
Istrus or Ister Scythia
Ladon Arcadia
Lamos Nonnus Cilicia or Boeotia
Marsyas River named after Phrygia a satyr; son of Hyagnis and either Olympus or Oeagrus
Maeander Caria
Meles Hellanicus, Eugaeon Lydia *
Mincius Virgil Gallia, Italy *
Nestos or Nessus Bistonia, Thrace
Nilus Egypt
Numicius Latium, Italy *
Nymphaeus ?[citation needed] Quintus Smyrnaeus Bithynia and Paphlagonia
Orontes Syria
Pactolus Nonnus Lydia *
Parthenius Paphlagonia
Phasis Colchis
Phlegethon or Pyriphlegethon Virgil, Statius Underworld son of Cocytus
Phyllis Apollonius Thynia, Anatolia *
Peneus Thessaly
Pleistos Apollonius Phocis *
Porpax Aelian Sicily *
Rhesus Rhesus (Ancient Greek: Ῥῆσος / Rhẽsos, Latin; Rhesus) was a river in Bithynia,[10] Troad, Anatolia (modern-day Hisarlik, Çanakkale, Turkey).[11] Per the Barrington Atlas, the Rhesus is likely Karaath Çay, a tributary of the Biga Çayı (known to antiquity as the Granicus).[12] The Rhesus is alternately called the Rhedas, and was said to flow into the "Thracian Bosphorus at Chalcedon."[13]
Rhine Nonnus Switzerland/Germany/France/Netherlands *
Rhodius Troad
Rhyndacus Nonnus Phrygia and Bithynia *
Sangarius or Sagaris Phrygia
Satnioeis ?[citation needed] Homer Troad
Scamander Troad
Selemnus ?[citation needed] Achaea
Simoeis Troad
Spercheus Malis
Strymon Edonia, Thrace
Symaethus Sicily *
Tanais Scythia
Telmessus Aelian Sicily *
Termessus Boeotia *
Thermodon Pontos and Assyria
Tiberinus Virgil Latium, Italy *
Tigris Assyria
Titaressus[14] ? Homer, Strabo, Seneca Thessaly
TOTAL 89 26 18 17 26 22 18 40 (+50*)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 337–345, 366–370.
  2. ^ Apollodorus, 3.7.5.
  3. ^ Apollodorus, 1.8.1, 2.7.5.
  4. ^ Smith, "Alpheius".
  5. ^ Homer, Iliad 20.74, 21.211 ff..
  6. ^ θεογονία. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  7. ^ The Theogony. Translated by Evelyn-White, Hugh G. 1914. ISBN 978-1-4209-0525-0. OCLC 1289856352.
  8. ^ Hesiod (1914). Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica. Vol. 57. H G. Loeb Classical Library. London: William Heinemann.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 334; Pseudo-Plutarch, De fluviis; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface
  10. ^ William Smith; William Wayte; G. E. Marindin (1890). "Rhesus". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Albemarle Street, London: John Murray. Retrieved 2023-01-23 – via www.perseus.tufts.edu.
  11. ^ Homer (2011). "12". The Iliad of Homer. Richmond Lattimore, Richard P. Martin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-47048-1. OCLC 704121276. [After the Greeks had departed from Troy :] Poseidon and Apollon took counsel to wreck the wall [of the Greeks], letting loose the strength of rivers upon it, all the rivers that run to the sea from the mountains of Ida, Rhesos (Rhesus) and Heptaporos, Karesos (Caresus) and Rhodios, Grenikos (Granicus) and Aisepos (Aesepus), and immortal Skamandros (Scamander) and Simoeis (. . .).
  12. ^ Huxley, George (2002). "Review of Parthenius of Nicaea. The poetical fragments and the ᾽Ερωτικὰ Παθήματα". Hermathena (172): 110–117. ISSN 0018-0750. JSTOR 23041295.
  13. ^ A Classical Manual: Being a Mythological, Historical, and Geographical Commentary on Pope's Homer and Dryden's Aeneid of Virgil. London: J. Murray. 1833. p. 216 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Homer,Iliad


External links[edit]