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|Pergamonmuseum Berlin, Pergamonaltar, Gigantomachie, Nereus, Doris, Okeanos contra Giganten Author Claus Ableiter|
An elderly sea-god with the coiled tail of a fish in place of legs who fathered 50 daughters - the Nereids (sea-nymphs). Nereus is the eldest son of Pontus and Gaia, the Sea and the Earth, a Titan with whom Doris fathered the Nereids, with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea. He is the Old Man of the Sea, a shapeshifter with the power of prophecy, who would aid heroes such as Heracles who managed to catch him even as he changed shapes. Nereus and Proteus ("first") seem to be two manifestations of the god of the sea who was supplanted by Poseidon when Zeus overthrew Cronus.
Nereus was known for his truthfulness and virtue:
But Pontos, the great sea, was father of truthful Nereus who tells no lies, eldest of his sons. They call him the Old Gentleman because he is trustworthy, and gentle, and never forgetful of what is right, but the thoughts of his mind are mild and righteous. Hesiod, Theogony 233
The Attic vase-painters showed the draped torso of Nereus issuing from a long coiling scaly fishlike tail. Bearded Nereus generally wields a staff of authority. He was also shown in scenes depicting the flight of the Nereides as Peleus wrestled their sister Thetis.
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