Neptune was the chief of the water deities. The symbol of his power was the trident, or spear with three points, with which he used to shatter rocks, to call forth or subdue storms, to shake the shores, and the like. He created the horse, and was the patron of horse races. His own horses had brazen hoofs and golden manes. They drew his chariot over the sea, which became smooth before him, while the monsters of the deep gambolled about his path.
Amphitrite was the wife of Neptune. She was the daughter of Nereus and Doris, and the mother of Triton. Neptune, to pay his court to Amphitrite, came riding on the dolphin. Having won her, he rewarded the dolphin by placing him among the stars.
Nereus and Doris were the parents of the Nereids, the most celebrated of whom were Amphitrite, Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and Galatea, who was loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus. Nereus was distinguished for his knowledge, and his love of truth and justice, and is described as the wise and unerring Old Man of the Sea. The gift of prophecy was also ascribed to him.
Triton was the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, and the poets make him his father's trumpeter. Proteus was also a son of Neptune. He, like Nereus, is styled a sea-elder for his wisdom and knowledge of future events. His peculiar power was that of changing his shape at will.
Thetis, the daughter of Nereus and Doris, was so beautiful that Jupiter himself sought her in marriage; but having learned from Prometheus the Titan, that Thetis should bear a son who should be greater than his father, Jupiter desisted from his suit and decreed that Thetis should be the wife of a mortal. By the aid of Chiron the Centaur, Peleus succeeded in winning the goddess for his bride, and their son was the renowned Achilles. In our chapter on the Trojan war it will appear that Thetis was a faithful mother to him, aiding him in all difficulties, and watching over his interests from the first to the last.
Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, flying from her frantic husband, with her little son Melicertes in her arms, sprang from a cliff into the sea. The gods, out of compassion, made her a goddess of the sea, under the name of Leucothea, and him a god under that of Palaemon. Both were held powerful to save from shipwreck, and were invoked by sailors. Palaemon was usually represented riding on a dolphin. The Isthmian games were celebrated in his honor. He was called Portumnus by the Romans, and believed to have jurisdiction of the ports and shores.
Milton alludes to all these deities in the song at the conclusion of Comus.
"Sabrina fair, Listen and appear to us, In name of great Oceanus; By the earth-shaking Neptune's mace, And Tethys' grave, majestic pace, By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look, And the Carpathian wizard's hook (Proteus) By scaly Triton's winding shell, And old soothsaying Glaucus; spell, By Leucothea's lovely hands, And her son who rules the strands, By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet, And the songs of Sirens sweet."