The Gods and Goddesses of Greek Mythology are some of the most interesting and in-depth of all mythologies. How did they come to into being, according to mythology?
The Greek Gods and Goddesses are a complex and interesting group, but the mythology on how they came into being and why the Titans were overthrown is less well known. This is an introduction to the Titans and those who came after.
Chaos was the creatrix and from Chaos, Mother Earth (also called Gaia) was born. Mother Earth herself gave birth to Uranus, who gave form to the Earth. She also gave birth to the three-headed giants and the Cyclopses (beings with one eye – their own sons later went on to work for Hephaestus in his forge). The Cyclops and Uranus did not get on well, and Uranus threw them down into the Underworld.
Mother Earth was deeply angered by this but still had twelve children from Uranus. Six were sons, six were daughters. These twelve became the mighty Titans. They were Cronus and Rhea, Phoebe and Coeus, Oceanus, Theia, Hyperion, Iapetus, Themis, Crius, Mnemosyne and Tethys.
Mother Earth did not lose her anger over the treatment of Uranus’ siblings though, and encouraged the Titans to take revenge on Uranus. In true Freudian style, Cronus, the youngest of the twelve, slew his father. In doing so, three drops of his father’s blood spilled onto the earth, becoming the Furies. These terrible Furies resided in the Underworld thereafter.
Cronus and his wife Rhea thereafter ruled over the Titans in what would later be known as the Golden Age. As he had died, Uranus had told Cronus a prophecy that one of Cronus’ own sons would one day take his life and so for five years, Cronus swallowed any child of his born (sons and daughters).
Rhea, as soon as she realised she was pregnant with her sixth child, went to Mount Lycaeum and gave birth to Zeus there. She left him in the care of the nymphs Io, Amaltheia and Adrasteia, visiting often. With Zeus’ arrival, the birth of the new gods ensued.
Rhea plotted with the growing Zeus (now a young man) to rescue his brothers and sisters from Cronus, who lived on inside him. Giving him a tainted drink (in the guise of a cup-bearer), Zeus was able to free his siblings, Hades, Demeter, Poseidon, Hestia and Hera.
The Downfall of the Titans
Hades and Poseidon wanted revenge on the Titans and plotted with Zeus to overthrow the old order. A long war ensued, with the mighty Atlas leading the way, as Cronus had become aged. Cronus trusted Atlas, his nephew. Atlas was also a Titan. He was the son of Iapetus and Clymene, and brother to Promentheus.
Zeus ventured into the underworld to free the Cyclops in the hope that they would aid him and his brothers in defeating Cronus. Grateful for their freedom, the Cyclops bestowed on the three brothers great gifts. To Zeus they gave the thunderbolt, of which he was most often depicted with, Hades received a helmet of darkness which made him invisible and Poseidon received the powerful trident.
Image: Jupiter, Neptune and Hades by Caravaggio
Using these gifts, the sons of Cronus were able to destroy him. Hades wore the helmet and stole his father’s weapons, Poseidon threatened him with his trident, distracting him, while Zeus struck him with the thunderbolt, killing him instantly.
The remaining Titans were swiftly defeated after their leader was killed. Atlas was given the punishment of holding the weight of heaven on his shoulders for eternity.
The three brothers divided leadership of the world between them. Zeus would have dominion over the sky and Earth, Poseidon would rule all the oceans and Hades would control the Underworld.
While many of the ‘New’ Gods and Goddesses of Greek mythology are well known, less is known of their origins and who or what came before them. The Titans were mighty but were overthrown by those who came after.
Source: Gods, Men and Monsters in Greek Mythology by Michael Gibson and Giovanni Caselli