The ancient poet Homer offers us an intriguing glimpse of the Ocean in the Iliad. In the lyrical description of the legendary shield of Achilles, Homer shows how the craftsman Hephaistos depicted Okeanos as a vast river that surrounds the world:
"Then, running round the shield-rim, triple-ply,
he pictured all the might of the Ocean stream."
As the god of the Ocean, Okeanos also was responsible for fathering many of the deities who in Greek myth either personified or inhabited the rivers, lakes, seas, and various other bodies of water. Okeanos, together with his consort Tethys, had many children, including the "three thousand slender-ankled daughters" who were known collectively as the Oceanids. In addition Okeanos and Tethys were the parents of the rivers and therefore the river gods.
Although Okeanos did not really play a prominent role in many legends, there is one intriguing story in which the god took part, and it involves the hero Herakles. According to the tale, Herakles borrowed a golden bowl from the Sun-god Helios in order to cross the wide expanse of the Ocean. However, once Herakles was on his way, Okeanos used his power to rock the golden bowl (and therefore also the hero) in the water. Herakles, in typical fashion, simply threatened Okeanos with violence. Okeanos quickly stopped interfering, and the great Greek hero continued on with his journey.
Who's Who in Classical Mythology