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Who is the Goddess of Water in Greek Mythology?
In Greek mythology, Eurybia was the goddess of the water, born to Gaia, the mother earth, and Pontus, the Greek primordial sea god. Eurybia was believed to have been the grandmother of the goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, and the mother to Astraeus, Eos, Perses, Asteria, Pallas, and Styx. Her appearance in the whole of Greek mythology is minimal, however, she is the ancestor of all other major gods.
There were many deities associated with various realms according to the ancient Greeks, whether this is air deities, earth deities or even deities that affected the less corporeal aspects of life such as emotions, thoughts, or dreams.
But it was the sea deities that appeared to be most revered, perhaps even the most believed, given that the waters themselves provided evidence of the gods’ existence. From the crashing of waves or the emergence of rapids to the more serene calmness of a still lake, every essence of the waters was orchestrated by the gods.
The stormy tides were not just an arbitrary motion of the ocean but could instead be interpreted as the anger of the sea gods. Meanwhile, the thunder of a cataract was not just an element of nature, but instead a god’s gift to the mortals, a source for which they could bathe and cleanse themselves.
Naturally, when one thinks of a water deity, they are most likely to consider Poseidon or Oceanus or perhaps even his wife, Tethys. But there were many deities and divine creatures that also occupied the waters from Oceanids, Sirens or even more gargantuan creatures like Scylla, Charybdis, or the Hydra.
Amongst these were the Titan deities, those who were perhaps long forgotten to even the ancient Greeks themselves after their deposition by Zeus and their gradual erosion of popularity.
One such Titan who belonged to the waters was Eurybia, the daughter of the earth goddess Gaia.
Who is Eurybia in Greek Mythology?
Eurybia is remembered today as a minor goddess—a deity who though may have had some prominence within her realm, was ultimately established to provide a contextual narrative for the later deities—an ancestor of these more popular characters if you will. Eurybia was seen as a minor goddess of the water in Greek mythology.
The Children and Consort of Eurybia
Her character, therefore, was most prominently used to identify the parentage of deities such as Astraeus, the Titan god of the dusk, Pallas, the Titan god of battle and Perses, the Titan god of destruction.
It was with a more notable Titan in Crius, one of the infamous brothers of the mad titan Cronus to who Eurybia would deliver these children, and it was Crius who was determined to be her husband. Hesiod tells us in his Theogony that
“Euribya, shining among goddesses, was joined in love with Crius, and brought forth the great Astraeus, the Starry-One and Pallas the Warrior and Perses the Destroyer.”
With this, Eurybia may also be considered as the grandmother of the Anemoi, or the winds as well as the Astra, or the planets, those who were born to her son Astraeus through his wife Eos.
These winds and planets, or these grandchildren that were produced by her son and daughter-in-law could also be associated as elements that affected the waters, those which decided on the calmness or volatility of the waves on any given day.
This is quite fitting given that Eurybia was believed to maintain some mastery over the sea, including the manipulation of constellations, the weather and again the power of the wind. It’s possible then that some may have consulted Eurybia when sailing the seas, hoping that she would provide them with smooth waters and safe conditions for which to sail and navigate.
Hecate, The Granddaughter of Eurybia
The Parents of Eurybia
Eurybia’s association with the sea is natural given that her parents were also deities that presided over the natural elements.
Her mother Gaia was of course the primordial goddess of the earth, whilst her father was believed to have been Pontus, the primordial god of the sea—a deity long presiding before the likes of Poseidon or even Oceanus.
As we’ve seen in many families of the gods, it’s not uncommon at all to see one deity adopt features of their parents’ dominion, or perhaps in more extreme cases, usurp the parent completely. In Eurybia’s case, she was more influenced by her father’s realm of the waters and proceeded to acquire some control of these waters by utilizing the winds or the weather, perhaps borrowing from her mother’s powers over the earth.
Hesiod tells us once more of Eurybia’s parentage, as well as her siblings, saying
“And Pontos (the sea) begat Nereus and yet again he got great Thaumas and proud Phorcys, being mated with Gaia (the earth), and fair cheeked Ceto and Eurybia who has a heart of flint within her.”
Whilst little is known of Eurybia’s personality, some have deduced that Hesiod’ words here provide us with some insight as to how hot-tempered she may have been. By describing her as having a heart made of flint, Hesiod may have been suggesting that Eurybia was quick to anger, or excitement given that flintstones are used to create a spark for fires.
In ancient times, flint was also used for weapons, and so it could be an indication that Eurybia was much less accustomed to calming the waters, but instead, more akin to provoking them.