A son of Pontus and Gaea, and husband of Doris, by whom he became the father of the fifty Nereides. He is described as the wise and unerring old man of the sea, at the bottom of which he dwelt.1 His empire is the Mediterranean or more particularly the Aegean sea, whence he is sometimes called the Aegean.2 He was believed, like other marine divinities, to have the power of prophesying the future and of appearing to mortals in different shapes; in the story of Heracles he acts a prominent part, just as Proteus in the story of Odysseus, and Glaucus in that of the Argonauts.3

Virgil4 mentions the trident as his attribute, and the epithets given him by the poets refer to his old age, his kindliness, and his trustworthy knowledge of the future. Nereus had a temple near Trachin in Thessaly.5


Nereus was depicted on Greek vases as an old man wearing a chiton and holding a staff, often in the company of his daughters. He is also depicted with a serpentine fish-tale instead of legs. Like other sea-gods, he is represented with pointed sea-weeds taking the place of hair in the eyebrows, the chin, and the breast.6



  1. Homer. Iliad xviii, 141, Odyssey xxiv, 58; Hesiod. Theogony, 233 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 2.6.
  2. Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iv, 772; Statius. Thebaid viii, 478.
  3. Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 5.11; Horace. Odes, i, 15.
  4. Aeneid ii, 418.
  5. Ovid. Metamorphoses xi, 346-409.
  6. Hirt, A. (1805). Bilderbuch für Mythologie p. 150 ff.


  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.