Ceto (/ˈst/; Ancient Greek: Κητώ, romanizedKētṓ, lit.'sea monster') is a primordial sea goddess in Greek mythology, the daughter of Pontus and his mother, Gaia. As a mythological figure, she is considered to be one of the most ancient deities, and bore a host of monstrous children fathered by Phorcys, another child of Gaia and Pontus. The small Solar System body 65489 Ceto was named after her, and its satellite after Phorcys.

A part of the frieze depicting a woman with her back to us, looking to the left. There are other figures partially visible, including a lion.
The goddess Ceto aiding her father Pontus in the mythological war known as the Gigantomachy — c. 166–156 BC — Gigantomachy Frieze, Pergamon Altar of Zeus
Personal information
ParentsPontus and Gaia
SiblingsNereus, Thaumas, Phorcys and Eurybia
Childrenthe Gorgons, the Graeae, Echidna, Ladon

Ceto was also variously called Crataeis[citation needed] (Κράταιις, Krataiis, from κραταιίς "mighty") and Trienus[citation needed] (Τρίενος, Trienos, from τρίενος "within three years"), and was occasionally conflated by scholars with the goddess Hecate (for whom Crataeis and Trienus are also epithets).

This goddess should not be confused with the minor Oceanid also named Ceto, or with various mythological beings referred to as ketos (plural kētē or ketea); this is a general term for "sea monster" in Ancient Greek.[1]

Family Edit

Besides Ceto, Gaia (Earth) and Pontus had four other offspring, Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys and Eurybia.[2] Hesiod's Theogony lists the children of Ceto and Phorcys as the two Graiae: Pemphredo and Enyo, and the three Gorgons: Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa,[3] with their last offspring being an unnamed serpent (later called Ladon, by Apollonius of Rhodes) who guards the golden apples.[4] Also according to Hesiod, the half-woman, half-snake Echidna was born to a "she" who was probably meant by Hesiod to be Ceto, (with Phorcys the likely father); however the "she" might instead refer to the Oceanid Callirhoe.[5] The mythographer Pherecydes of Athens (5th century BC) has Echidna as the daughter of Phorcys, without naming a mother.[6]

The mythographers Apollodorus and Hyginus, each name a third Graiae, as the offspring of Ceto and Phorcys, Dino and Persis respectively.[7] Apollodorus and Hyginus also make Ladon the offspring of Echidna and Typhon, rather than Ceto and Phorcys.[8]

The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius cites Phorcys and Ceto as the parents of the Hesperides, but this assertion is not repeated in other ancient sources.

Ceto is possibly the mother of the Nemean lion and the Sphinx by her grandson Orthrus.[9]

Homer refers to Thoosa, the mother of Polyphemus in the Odyssey, as a daughter of Phorcys, but does not indicate whether Ceto is her mother.

Cult Edit

Pliny the Elder mentions worship of "storied Ceto" at Joppa (now Jaffa), in a single reference, immediately after his mention of Andromeda, whom Perseus rescued from a sea-monster. S. Safrai and M. Stern suggest the possibility that someone at Joppa established a cult of the monster under the name Ceto. As an alternative explanation, they posit that Pliny or his source misread the name cetus—or that of the Syrian goddess Derceto.[10]

Notes Edit

  1. ^ "κῆτος" in Liddell, Henry and Robert Scott. 1996. A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised by H.S. Jones and R. McKenzie. Ninth edition, with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  2. ^ Hard, p. 50; Hesiod, Theogony 233–339 (Most, pp. 21–23); Apollodorus 1.2.6.
  3. ^ Theogony 270–276 (Most, pp. 24, 25).
  4. ^ Theogony 333–336 (Most, pp. 28, 29); Apollonius of Rhodes, 4.1396.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 270-300. Though Herbert Jennings Rose says simply that it is "not clear which parents [for Echidna] are meant", Athanassakis, p. 44, says that Ceto and Phorcys are the "more likely candidates for parents". The problem arises from the ambiguous referent of the pronoun "she" in Theogony 295. While some have read this "she" as referring to Callirhoe (e.g. Smith s.v. Echidna; Morford, p. 162), according to Clay, p. 159 n. 32, "the modern scholarly consensus" reads Ceto, see for example Most, p. 27 n. 16 ("Probably Ceto"); Gantz, p. 22 ("Phorkys and Keto produce Echidna"); Caldwell, pp. 7, 46 lines 295–303 ("presumably Keto"); West, p. 249 line 295 ("probably Keto"); Grimal, s.v. Echidna ("Phorcys and Ceto").
  6. ^ Pherecydes, fr. 7 Fowler = FGrHist 3 F 7 (Fowler, p. 278); Hošek, p. 678.
  7. ^ Apollodorus 2.4.2; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface § p.9.
  8. ^ Apollodorus 2.5.11; Hyginus, Fabulae Preface § p.35, 151.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 326–327. Who is meant as the mother is unclear, the problem arising from the ambiguous referent of the pronoun "she" in line 326 of the Theogony, see Clay, p.159, note 34
  10. ^ Colitur illic fabulosa Ceto. Pliny, Book 5, chapter 14, §69; this same paragraph will be referred to as v.14, v.69, V.xiv.69; and v.13 (one of the chapter divisions is missing in some MSS). For Ceto as a transferred name, see Rackham's Loeb translation; for emendations, see The Jewish people in the first century. Historical geography, political history, social, cultural and religious life and institutions. Ed. by S. Safrai and M. Stern in co-operation with D. Flusser and W. C. van Unnik, Vol II, p. 1081, and Oldfather's translation of Pliny (Derceto).

References Edit

Further reading Edit

  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Bartelink, Dr. G.J.M. (1988). Prisma van de mythologie. Utrecht: Het Spectrum.