The Oceanids or Oceanides are the daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. These ocean nymphs protect and nourish the young, so they are the natural companions of young Persephone. Oceanus and Tethys were a prolific couple, so it is not surprising that they gave birth to three thousand Oceanids (a number that usually means “innumerable”). Still, the chorus of maidens that accompanied Persephone was limited to a handful of the sisters. According to her version of her abduction by Hades, Persephone was playing in a lovely meadow along with Leukippe, Phaino, Elektra, Ianthe, Melita, Iakhe, Rhodea, Kallirhoe, Melobosis, Tyche (“Good Fortune”), Okyrhoe (who is fair as a flower), Khryseis, Ianeira, Akaste, Admete, Rhodope, Plouto (“Wealth”) and charming Kalypso. Styx, Ourania, and lovely Galaxaura (whose delightful name can be interpreted as she who is “like the refreshing coolness of a shady stream”) were also present. Their nearness to Persephone, though, utterly failed to prevent her rape. The Oceanids could not assist her either by attempting to save her or at least witnessing who was responsible for her abduction.
Pluto abducting Proserpine, Hendrik van le Vieux Balen, ca.1575-1632, Musée du Louvre © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Beck-Coppola
Hesiod called the Oceanids the “neat-ankled daughters of Oceanus” and noted that they were dispersed far and wide on land and the deep waters. Many Oceanids became wives and mothers of gods, while others dedicated themselves to protect sailors. The Argonauts made sure to secure their generous assistance by sacrificing bulls and offering them a mixture of flour, honey, and seawater before sailing to Colchis.
The Oceanids, Gustave Doré, 1860s, painting, © Wikipedia Commons