Mythology

Myth of the Old Man of the Sea

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There are many different types of figures in Greek mythology, and not all of them are gods and goddesses. There is a curious character in some of the stories known as the Old Man of the Sea. The Old Man of the Sea was the personification of the sea who embodied the virtues of justice and truth. Here’s what you should know about the Old Man of the Sea:

About the Old Man of the Sea

In Greek mythology, the Old Man of the Sea was a primordial figure that was made up of a number of sea deities including: Pontus, Nereus, Phorcys, and Nereus. Nereus was the son of Gaia and Pontus and the father of Nerites and Nereids. Nereus was a trustworthy god who did not lie. Eventually, Nereus was replaced by sea god Triton.

Proteus was the herdsman and master of sea animals and sea monsters. Pontus was a primordial diety who ruled on earth before the Olympians arrived. Phorcys was the son of Gaea and Pontus. Different descriptions of Phorcys describe him as a grey-haired merman with a fish tail, as having the characteristics of a crab with claws, or as he is commonly known holding a flaming torch. The Old Man of the Sea was thought to be the personification of the sea.

Father of a Sea Nymph

The Old Man of the Sea was the father of Thetis, a sea-nymph who was the mother of Achilles. Thetis was courted by both Poseidon and Zeus, neither of whom would marry her. She would marry Peleus, with whom she had her son. Thetis appears in Greek mythology not only as a sea-nymph, but also as a goddess of water, or one of 50 Nereids (daughters of the sea god Nereus).

The Old Man of the Sea was mentioned in Homer’s poem Odyssey. In the poem, Menelaus asked the Old Man of the Sea for help on how to get back home. The Old Man of the Sea could only answer questions when he was captured, but because he was able to change form it made it difficult for him to be caught. Menelaus would eventually capture him though thus allowing him to ask him questions that would lead him back home. One of the questions that Menelaus asked the Old Man of the Sea was if Odysseus, the father of Telemachus was still alive.

Old Man of the Sea in Other Works

The Old Man of the Sea is also mentioned in the book-length poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson’s which is titled “King Jasper.” In the third part of this poem, King Jasper has a dream of his deceased friend named Hebron who was riding on his back. Hebron speaks a line that reads “You cannot fall yet, and I’m riding nicely. If only we might have the sight of water, we’d say that I’m the Old Man of the Sea, And you Sinbad the Sailor.”

The Old Man of the Sea is also mentioned in The Devil’s Code by John Sanford and in the novel Little Women.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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