Tethys was one of Greek mythology’s Titans.
The Titans were all of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea’s (Earth) children. These children included Hyperion, Oceanus, Theia, Phoebe, Coeus, Rhea, Cronus, Mnemosyne, Crius, Themis, and Lapetus as well as Tethys. Her brother, Cronus, became their leader. As the leader, he was able to overthrow their tyrant father from his throne.
Later on, Cronus learned about a prophecy that said his son would one day overthrow him just like he had with his father. Cronus did everything he could think of to stop this from happening, but the prophecy eventually did come true. This is when Zeus took the throne and ended the age of the Titans, but this only happened after the Great War between the Titans and Olympians was over.
Tethys grew up to become the Titan goddess of fresh water which nourishes the Earth. Her name comes from the Greek word tethe. It means “grandmother” or “nurse.”
Tethys was married to the Greek god Oceanus. He was another one of her brothers. Their children were the river gods. These children lived on the rivers that the Greeks then knew of such as the Nile and Alpheus. Tethys also gave birth to three thousand Oceanids which were water goddesses. Tethys herself was never actively worshipped in Greek Mythology, even though she had all of these children. In addition to caring for her own, she raised a stepchild known as Hera. Hera was brought to her by Rhea and would one day be Zeus’s wife. Hera became known as the Olympian goddess of marriage in addition to being the Queen of Olympus.
According to a Greek myth, Tethys greatest role was played out in the formation of two well-known constellations. It all began with Callisto. Callisto was a follower of the goddess Artemis. This meant that she had to take a vow of chastity. However, Zeus eventually fell in love with her, and she broke her vow. She had a son, Arcas, as a result of her broken vow. To hide his part in all of this, Zeus turned Callisto into a bear.
Hera, Zeus’ wife and Tethys’ step daughter, was not happy to learn of all this. When a jealous Hera continued to try to get Callisto killed, Zeus turned Callisto and their son into constellations. He felt this would keep them safe. Hera was upset over Callisto and Arcas being placed in the heavens and turned into the constellations we know today as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Hera went to Tethys and asked her to help her do something about this. In order to please Hera, Tethys made it so that neither constellation could ever touch the sea or fall below the horizon. From that time on, the two were doomed to a fate of simply circling the sky forever. Callisto perpetually circles the North Star without ever setting over the horizon.
The image of Tethys is often found in Greek vase paintings. She is portrayed as a plain women accompanied by the goddess of childbirth, Eileithyia, and her husband. He is shown as having a fish tail. Mosaic art shows her as having a pair of small wings on her forehead. The wings were supposed to signify her role as the mother of the rain clouds.