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[508] Ὠκεανός. We may suppose that, according to Homer's idea, the earth (whether he regarded it as a flat plain, or had some notion of its globular shape) is roughly circular, the various lands being more or less closely grouped round a central sea. The whole is surrounded by a ring of water, which he calls “ὠκεανός”, and the heavens arch it over like a dome. The poet does not in so many words describe the earth as flat, but it seems generally taken for granted. Helios is able to look upon his pastures in Thrinacia, both when he rises and when he sets ( Od.12. 379), and Hephaestus represents the earth as the flat, or slightly rounded, part of the shield of Achilles, and makes the ocean form its rim: “ἐν δ᾽ ἐτίθει ποταμοῖο μέγα σθένος Ὠκεανοῖο

ἄντυγα πὰρ πυμάτην Il.18. 607.The word “ποταμός” settles at once what was his idea of the ocean. It is not a sea; it is a river. The Schol. derived the word from “ὠκύς” and “νάω”, but it is more probably connected with the Skt. ogha, ‘a stream.’ This river has a current, “κῦμα ῥόοιο”, and perhaps rapids and swirling eddies (“βαθυδίνης Od.10. 511), but the general movement of the stream is not violent, as the epithet “ἀκαλαρρείτης” ( Il.7. 422) shows. That it encompassed the whole earth we infer from the fact that it is found at all points of the compass. It is on the east, for the sun rises from it, Od.19. 433; 22. 197: it is on the west, for the sun sets in it, Il.8. 485: it is on the south, for Iris says ( Il.23. 205) “εἶμι . . ἐπ᾽ Ὠκεανοῖο ῥέεθρα
Αἰθιόπων ἐς γαῖαν”. And that it lies on the north too Strabo acknowledges (1. 1. 3), “ὅτι δὲ καὶ πρὸς ταῖς ἄρκτοις ἐσχατιὰ ὠκεανῖτίς ἐστιν οὕτως ἠνίξατο, εἰπὼν περὶ τῆς ἄρκτου, ‘οἴη δ᾽ ἄμμορός ἐστι λοετρῶν Ὠκεανοῖο”.’ It is therefore the limit of the earth on every side, and as such it is spoken of as “πείρατα Ὠκεανοῖο” ( Od.11. 13), ‘the limit set by ocean.’ As a river then, with a current setting in one direction, it is well called “ἀψόρροος” ( Il.18. 399), because its waters are ever flowing back, as it were, to the point from which they may be supposed to start; an epithet which Virgil renders by ‘refusus’ Aen.7. 225(cp. Lucan Aen., 8. 795) though perhaps with a somewhat different meaning. Ὠκεανός is quite distinct from the sea, under whatever name it is known (“πόντος, θάλασσα, ἅλς, πέλαγος”), and seems to flow round the sea, in contact with it and yet unmixed with it, for we get no allusion to any separating strip of land. Just as it is almost possible to draw a line marking the edge of the gulf-stream at its swiftest pace through the Atlantic, so, much more distinctly, was the ocean separated from the salt waters of the sea, its own water probably being regarded as fresh, “ἐξ οὗπερ πάντες ποταμοὶ καὶ πᾶσα θάλασσα”,
καὶ πᾶσαι κρῆναι καὶ φρείατα μακρὰ νάουσι Il.21. 196.It was possible to sail without interruption from the sea across Oceanus and to reach the “ἀκτή” on the farther side. Translate, ‘but when with thy ship thou hast made thy way across ocean, where there is a rough-grown coast, and groves of Persephone, both tall aspens, and willows that shed their fruit—there, on the edge of the swirling ocean, beach thy ship, but go thyself to the mouldering house of Hades.’

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