previous next

Proteus

Πρωτεύς). The prophetic old man of the sea, described in the earliest legends as a subject of Poseidon, whose flocks (the seals) he tended. According to Homer, he resided in the island of Pharos at a distance of one day's sail from the river Aegyptus (i. e. the Nile); whereas Vergil places his residence in the island of Carpathos between Crete and Rhodes. At mid-day Proteus rose from the sea, and slept in the shadow of the rocks of the coast, with the sea-monsters lying around him. Any one wishing to learn from him the future was obliged to catch hold of him at that time; as soon as he was seized he assumed every possible shape in order to escape the necessity of prophesying; but whenever he saw that his endeavours were of no avail he resumed his usual form, and told the truth. After finishing his prophecy he returned into the sea (Odyss. iv. 351). Homer ascribes to him a daughter Idothea. Another set of traditions describes Proteus as a son of Poseidon and as a king of Egypt, who had two sons—Telegonus and Polygonus or Tmolus. His Egyptian name is said to have been Cetes, for which the Greeks substituted that of Proteus. His wife is called Psamathé or Toroné, and, besides the above-mentioned sons, Theoclymenus and Theonoë are likewise called his children. He is said to have hospitably received Dionysus during his wanderings. Hermes brought to him Helen after her abduction; or, according to others, Proteus himself took her from Paris, gave to the lover a phantom, and restored the true Helen to Menelaüs after his return from Troy (Herod.ii. 112Herod., 118; Diod.i. 62).

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: