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Proteus

Proteus

Proteus was an ancient Greek god also known as the old man of the sea. He served as a shepherd for the sea god Neptune*, watching over his flocks of seals. In return, Neptune gave Proteus the gift of prophecy.

prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted

Proteus possessed knowledge of all thingspast, present, and futurebut was reluctant to reveal his knowledge. He would answer questions only if caught. The only way to catch him was to sneak up on him at noontime when he took his daily nap. However, Proteus also had the ability to change shape at will. Once he was seized, it was necessary to hold him tightly until he returned to his natural form. Then he would answer any question put to him. The legend of Proteus gave rise to the term protean, which means able to assume different forms.

See also Greek Mythology; Neptune.

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Proteus

Proteus in Greek mythology, a minor sea god, son of Oceanus and Tethys, who had the power of prophecy but who would assume different shapes to avoid answering questions; his name can be applied allusively to a changing, varying, or inconstant person or thing.

In 1989, the name Proteus was given to a satellite of Neptune, the sixth closest to the planet, discovered by the Voyager 2 space probe.

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Proteus

Proteus (family Enterobacteriaceae) A genus of Gram-negative bacteria in which the cells are usually rod-shaped, but may vary from ovoid to filamentous under certain conditions. They are motile, with many flagella. They are found chiefly in the intestines and faeces of animals, including humans. Some species can cause disease.

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Proteus (in Greek mythology)

Proteus (prō´tēəs, –tyōōs), in Greek mythology, prophetic old man of the sea who tended the seals of Poseidon. He could change himself into any shape he pleased, but if he were nevertheless seized and held, he would foretell the future. The word protean is derived from his name.

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Proteus

Proteus In Greek mythology, a sea god, son of Oceanus and Tethys. He is depicted as a little old man of the sea. Proteus possessed the gift of prophecy and the ability to alter his form at will; in an instant he could become fire, flood or a wild beast.

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Proteus

Proteus (proh-ti-ŭs) n. a genus of rodlike Gram-negative flagellate highly motile bacteria common in the intestines and in decaying organic material. P. vulgaris a species that can cause urinary tract infections.

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proteus

proteus (Gr. and Rom. myth.) sea-god fabled to change his shape, transf. and fig. XVI; amoeba; genus of bacteria; genus of amphibians XIX. — L. — Gr. Proteús.
Hence protean changing, varying. XVI.

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Proteus

ProteusBierce, fierce, Pearce, Peirce, pierce, tierce •Fabius, scabious •Eusebius •amphibious, Polybius •dubious • Thaddeus • compendious •radius • tedious •fastidious, hideous, insidious, invidious, perfidious •Claudiuscommodious, melodious, odious •studious • Cepheus •Morpheus, Orpheus •Pelagius • callipygous • Vitellius •alias, Sibelius, Vesalius •Aurelius, Berzelius, contumelious, Cornelius, Delius •bilious, punctilious, supercilious •coleus • Julius • nucleus • Equuleus •abstemious •Ennius, Nenniuscontemporaneous, cutaneous, extemporaneous, extraneous, instantaneous, miscellaneous, Pausanias, porcellaneous, simultaneous, spontaneous, subcutaneous •genius, heterogeneous, homogeneous, ingenious •consanguineous, ignominious, Phineas, sanguineous •igneous, ligneous •Vilnius •acrimonious, antimonious, ceremonious, erroneous, euphonious, felonious, harmonious, parsimonious, Petronius, sanctimonious, Suetonius •Apollonius • impecunious •calumnious • Asclepius • impious •Scorpius •copious, Gropius, Procopius •Marius • pancreas • retiarius •Aquarius, calcareous, Darius, denarius, gregarious, hilarious, multifarious, nefarious, omnifarious, precarious, Sagittarius, senarius, Stradivarius, temerarious, various, vicarious •Atreus •delirious, Sirius •vitreous •censorious, glorious, laborious, meritorious, notorious, uproarious, uxorious, vainglorious, victorious •opprobrious •lugubrious, salubrious •illustrious, industrious •cinereous, deleterious, imperious, mysterious, Nereus, serious, Tiberiuscurious, furious, injurious, luxurious, penurious, perjurious, spurious, sulphureous (US sulfureous), usurious •Cassius, gaseous •Alcaeus • Celsius •Theseus, Tiresias •osseous, Roscius •nauseous •caduceus, Lucius •Perseus • Statius • Propertius •Deo gratias • plenteous • piteous •bounteous •Grotius, Photius, Proteus •beauteous, duteous •courteous, sestertius •Boethius, Prometheus •envious • Octavius •devious, previous •lascivious, niveous, oblivious •obvious •Vesuvius, Vitruviusimpervious, pervious •aqueous • subaqueous • obsequious •Dionysius

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Proteus

Proteus (Neptune VIII) A satellite of Neptune, measuring 436 × 416 × 402 km; visual albedo 0.06.

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Proteus

Proteus ★★ 1995 (R)

Survivors of a boat wreck wash up on an offshore oil rig that's actually a secret lab financed by loony millionaire Brinkstone (Bradley), who's seeking immortality. His DNA experiments have led to the creation of a disgusting parasite that travels from body to body. Naturally, the boat survivors also seek to survive this latest health threat. Based on the novel “Slimer” by Harry Adam Knight. 97m/C VHS . GB Doug Bradley, Craig Fairbrass, Toni Barry; D: Bob Keen.

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Proteus

Proteus

Nationality/Culture

Greek

Pronunciation

PRO-tee-uhs

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Ovid's Metamorphoses, Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Georgics

Character Overview

Proteus was an ancient Greek god also known as the old man of the sea. He served as a shepherd for the sea god Poseidon (pronounced poh-SYE-dun), who is sometimes named as his father. Proteus watched over Poseidon's flocks of seals, and in return, Poseidon gave Proteus the gift of prophecy, or the ability to see the future.

Major Myths

Proteus possessed knowledge of all things—past, present, and future— but was reluctant to reveal his knowledge. He would answer questions only if caught. The only way to catch him was to sneak up on him at noontime when he took his daily nap. However, Proteus also had the ability to change shape at will. Once he was seized, it was necessary to hold him tightly until he returned to his natural form. Then he would answer any question put to him.

According to one myth, Aristaeus (pronounced a-ris-TEE-uhs), a son of the god Apollo (pronounced uh-POL-oh) and a beekeeper, discovered one day that all of his bees had died from an unknown sickness. His mother suggested that he locate Proteus, who would know how to solve his bee problem. Aristaeus found Proteus and held on tight to him, despite his attempts to change shape and escape. Eventually Proteus gave up and agreed to answer whatever question Aristaeus might ask. Aristaeus asked how to get back his bees; Proteus told him to sacrifice twelve animals at an altar, and return to the altar after three days. When Aristaeus returned to the altar, the corpse of one of the animals was filled with bees. Aristaeus kept these bees, and they never again fell ill.

Proteus in Context

The idea of Proteus, a sea god, may reflect ancient Greek observations about the nature of the sea. Many observers throughout the centuries have noted the constantly changing nature of the sea, with its ever-shifting surface and ability to turn from calm to violent very quickly. Proteus may also reflect an ancient view of the gods as often being unwilling to help others, especially humans.

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the main themes found in the myth of Proteus is the reluctant seer—a being who possesses great knowledge, but is unwilling to share it except when forced. Proteus never offers his wisdom willingly, as shown in the myth of Aristaeus and the bees. Another theme is ancient wisdom: although Proteus was often referred to as the son of Poseidon, he was always pictured as an old man, and it was rumored he existed in myth long before many of the Olympian gods.

Proteus in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

The legend of Proteus gave rise to the term protean, which means able to assume different forms. Although Proteus seldom appears as a character in art or literature after ancient times, he has been mentioned in the works of John Milton, William Shakespeare, and William Wordsworth, and the concept of Proteus as a shape-shifter has endured both literally and figuratively. Kurt Vonnegut gave the main character of his novel Player Piano (1952) the last name of Proteus, a reference to his shifting identity. Proteus, and shape-shifting creatures known as Proteans, appear often in role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade. Proteus is also the name given to a satellite of the planet Neptune.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The term “protean” is used to refer not only to beings that can change shape, but also to people who can exhibit different moods or personalities in different situations. In modern times, such people might be classified as having a mood or personality disorder. Looking at the actions and behaviors of the other Greek gods, how do you think they would be viewed by modern people? Why? Provide examples to illustrate your point.

SEE ALSO Greek Mythology; Poseidon

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Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.