the TITANS & early Greek Mythology

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Noun 1. Atlas - (Greek mythology) a Titan who was forced by Zeus to bear the sky on his shoulders
Greek mythology - the mythology of the ancient Greeks
Titan - (Greek mythology) any of the primordial giant gods who ruled the Earth until overthrown by Zeus; the Titans were offspring of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth)
2. atlas - a collection of maps in book form
book of maps, map collection
book of facts, reference book, reference work, reference - a book to which you can refer for authoritative facts; "he contributed articles to the basic reference work on that topic"
gazetteer - a geographical dictionary (as at the back of an atlas)
dialect atlas, linguistic atlas - an atlas showing the distribution of distinctive linguistic features
3. atlas - the 1st cervical vertebra
atlas vertebra
cervical vertebra, neck bone - one of 7 vertebrae in the human spine located in the neck region
4. atlas - a figure of a man used as a supporting column
pillar, column - (architeture) a tall cylindrical vertical upright and used to support a structure


Greek: AtlaV Transliteration: Atlas Translation: Daring

ATLAS was the younger TITAN-god of daring thoughts. After rebelling against Zeus he was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. According to some he was later released from this burden and made guardian of the pillars that were set to hold the heavens aloft in his stead.


(1) IAPETOS & KLYMENE (Theogony 507f, Hyginus Pref)
(2) IAPETOS & ASIA (Apollodorus 1.8)
(3) IAPETOS (Metamorphoses 4.627)


(1) THE PLEIADES (Works & Days 383f, Of the Origin of Homer & Hesiod & their Contest 1, Homerica The Astronomy Frag 1, Greek Lyric III Simonides Frag 555, Metamorphoses 6.169, Dionysiaca 3.349)
(2) THE PLEIADES (by Pleione) (Apollodorus 3.110, Ovid Fasti 5.79)
(3) THE PLEIADES, THE HYADES, HYAS (by Pleione or Aethra) (Hyginus Fab 192, Hyginus Astronomica 2.21, Ovid Fasti 5.164)
(4) KALYPSO (Odyssey 1.52, Apollodorus E7.23-24)
(5) MAIRA (Pausanias 8.12.7)
(6) THE HESPERIDES (by Hesperis) (Diodorus Sicululs 4.26.2)
(7) DIONE (Hyginus Fabulae 83, Metamorphoses 6.172)

"Now Iapetos took to wife the neat-ankled maid Klymene, daughter of Okeanos, and went up with her into one bed. And she bare him a stout-hearted son, Atlas... And Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth before the clear-voiced Hesperides; for this lot wise Zeus assigned to him." -Theogony 507f

"There [at the sources & ends of earth, sea, Tartaros] stands the awful home of murky Night wrapped in dark clouds. In front of it the son of Iapetos [Atlas] stands immovably upholding the wide heaven upon his head and unwearying hands, where Night and Day draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze." -Theogony 744f

“A wave-washed island [Ogygia], a wooded island in the navel of the seas. A goddess has made her dwelling there whose father is Atlas the magician; he knows the depths of all the seas, and he, no other, guards the tall pillars that keep the sky and earth apart.” –Odyssey 1.52

"The stormy Peleiades ... Lovely Teygeta, and dark-faced Elektra, and Alkyone, and bright Asterope, and Kelaino, and Maia, and Merope, whom glorious Atlas begot." -Homerica, The Astronomy Frag 1

"Olympian Zeus himself from heaven in wrath smote down the insolent bands of Gigantes grim, and shook the boundless earth, Tethys and Okeanos, and the heavens, when reeled the knees of Atlas neath the rush of Zeus." -Quintus Smyrnaeus 11.415

“Does not even now great Atlas struggle to bear up the weight of heaven, far from his fathers’ land and his possessions? But almighty Zeus set free the Titanes, for as time passes and the breeze abates, the sails are set anew.” –Pindar Pythian 4 ant13

"Simonides represents him [Atlas] as holding the sky on his shoulders." -Greek Lyric III Simonides Frag 556 (from Philodemos, Piety)

“Atlas: a mountain in Libya. Polyidos the dithyrambic poet makes Atlas a shepherd: according to him, Perseus arrived on the scene, and Atlas asked who he was and where he had come from; and when Perseus’ words failed to persuade him to allow him to pass, he was compelled to show him the Gorgon’s face and turned him to stone; and the mountain was called Atlas after him. So the commentary on Lykophron.” –Greek Lyric V Polyidus Frag 837 (from Etymologicum Magnum)

“[Prometheus to Okeanos:]’The fate of Atlas grieves me – my own brother, who in the far West stands with his unwieldy load pressing upon his back, the pillar of heaven and earth.” –Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 347-349

"The Titanes had children ... Atlas (who holds the sky on his shoulders), Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoitios ... were all sons of Iapetos and Asia." -Apollodorus 1.8

"[The golden apples of the Hesperides] These apples were not, as some maintain, in Libya, but rather were with Atlas among the Hyperboreans. Ge had given them to Zeus when he married Hera." -Apollodorus 2.114

"Prometheus advised Herakles not to go after the apples himself, but rather to relive Atlas of the celestial sphere and dispatch him. So when Herakles reached Atlas among the Hyperboreans, he remembered Prometheus’ advise and took over the sphere. Atlas picked three apples from the garden of the Hesperides, then returned to Herakles. Not wanting to hold up the sphere, he told Herakles that he should carry the applies back to Eurystheus, and that Herakles could hold up the sky in his place. Herakles agreed, but by a trick gave the sphere back to Atlas. On the advise of Prometheus he asked Atlas to take the sky while he put a cushion on his head. Hearing this, Atlas set the apples down on the ground, and relieved Herakles of the sphere. Thus Herakles picked them up and left. (Some say, however, that he did not take the apples from Atlas, but killed the snake that guarded them, and picked them himself.) Returning with the apples he gave them to Eurystheus who made a present of them to Herakles. But Athene retrieved them from him and took them back, for it was not permitted by diving law to locate them anywhere else." -Apollodorus 2.119-120

"To Atlas and Okeanos’ daughter Pleione were born (on Arkadian Kyllene) seven daughters called the Pleiades, whose names are Alkyone, Merope, Kelaino, Elektra, Sterope, Taygete, and Maia." -Apollodorus 3.110-111

“[Illustrated on the throne of the statue of Aphrodite at Amyklai, Lakedaimon] To describe the reliefs … Poseidon and Zeus are carrying Taygete, daughter of Atlas, and her sister Alkyone. There are also reliefs of Atlas.” –Pausanias 3.18.10-16

“[In the temple of Zeus at Olympia are paintings] Among them is Atlas, supporting heaven and earth, by whose side stands Herakles ready to receive the load of Atlas.” –Pausanias 5.11.5

“[Depicted on the chest of Cypselus at Olympia] Atlas too is supporting, just as the story has it, heaven and earth upon his shoulders; he is also carrying the apples of the Hesperides. A man holding a sword is coming towards Atlas. This everybody can see is Herakles, though he is not mentioned especially in the inscription, which reads:- Here is Atlas holding heaven, but he will let go the apples.” –Pausanias 5.18.4

“[A depiction] It shows the heavens upheld be Atlas, and also Herakles and the apple-tree of the Hesperides with the Drakon coiled around it." -Pausanias 6.19.8

"[At Tanagra, Boiotia] is a place called Polos. Here they say that Atlas sat and meditated deeply upon hell and heaven, as Homer says of him: ‘Daughter of baneful Atlas, who knows the depths of every sea, while he himself holds up the tall pillars, which keep apart earth and heaven.” -Pausanias 9.20.3

“They [the Argonauts] found the sacred plot where, till the day before, the serpent Ladon, a son of the Libyan soil, had kept watch over the golden apples in the Garden of Atlas." –Argonautica 4.1390f

“The desolate dwelling place of Atlas [ie Libya].” –Lycophron 877

“But we must not fail to mention what the myths relate about Atlas and about the race of the Hesperides. The account runs like this: In the country known as Hesperitis there were two brothers whose fame was known abroad, Hesperos and Atlas. These brothers possessed flocks of sheep which excelled in beauty and were in colour of a golden yellow, this being the reason why the poets, in speaking of these sheep as mela, called them golden mela. Now Hesperos begat a daughter named Hesperis, who he gave in marriage to his brother and after whom the land was given the name Hesperitis; and Atlas begat by her seven daughters, who were named after their father Atlantides, and after their mother Hesperides. And since these Atlantides excelled in beauty and chastity, Busiris the king of the Aigyptians, the account says, was seized with a desire to get the maidens into his power; and consequently he dispatched pirates by sea with orders to seize the girls and deliver them into his hands …
[Herakles slew Busiris] Meanwhile the pirates had seized the girls while they were playing in a certain garden and carried them off, and fleeing swiftly to their ships had sailed away with them. Herakles came upon the pirates as they were taking their meal on a certain strand, and learning from the maidens what had taken place he slew the pirates to a man and brought the girls back to Atlas their father; and in return Atlas was so grateful to Herakles for his kindly deed that he not only gladly gave him such assistance as his Labour called for, but he also instructed him quite freely in the knowledge of astrology. For Atlas had worked out the science of astrology to a degree surpassing others and had ingeniously discovered the spherical arrangement of the stars, and for that reason was generally believed to be bearing the entire firmament upon his shoulders. Similarly in the case of Herakles, when he had brought to the Greeks the doctrine of the sphere, he gained great fame, as if he had taken over the burden of the firmament which Atlas had borne, since men intimated in this enigmatic way what had actually taken place ” –Diodorus Sicululs 4.26.2 [Diodorus here gives his own rational interpretation of the myth]

"From Iapetus and Clymene [were born]: Atlas, Epimetheus, Prometheus." -Hyginus Preface

"From Atlas and Pleione [were born]: Maia, Calypso, Alcyone, Merope, Electra, Celaeno." -Hyginus Preface

“After Juno [Hera] saw that Epaphus, born of a concubine, ruled such a great kingdom, she saw to it that he should be killed while hunting, and encouraged the Titanes to drive Jove [Zeus] from the kingdom and restore it to Saturn [Kronos]. When they tried to mount to heaven, Jove with the help of Minerva [Athene], Apollo, and Diana [Artemis], cast them headlong into Tartarus. On Atlas, who had been their leader, he put the vault of the sky; even now he is said to hold up the sky on his shoulders.” –Hyginus Fabulae 150

“Atlas by Pleione or an Oceanitide had twelve daughters, and a son, Hyas. The son was killed by a wild boar or a lion, and the sisters, grieving for him, died of this grief. The five of them first put among the stars have their place between the horns of the bull – Phaesyla, Ambrosia, Coronis, Eudora, Polyxo – and are called, from their brother’s name, Hyades ... The rest of the sisters, later dying from grief, were made stars, and because they were many, were called Pleiades.” –Hyginus Fabulae 192

“Hyas, son of Atlas and Pleione, [was killed] by a boar, or by a lion.” –Hyginus Fabulae 248

"[When Phaethon driving the chariot of the sun set the earth aflame] Even Atlas fails, his shoulders scarce sustain the flaming sky." -Metamorphoses 2.296

“Now at dusk, fearing to trust the night, he [Perseus flying on winged sandals] landed on the far Hesperian shore, the realm of Atlas, seeking rest awhile … Atlas Iapetionides surpassed all men in giant size. He ruled the world’s last lands and that far sea that greets the panting horses of the sun and welcomed their tired wheels. A thousand herds roamed on his pastures and a thousand flocks, unchecked, untroubled by a neighbour’s bounds; and there were trees whose glittering leaves of gold clothed golden apples under golden boughs. ‘Good friend’, Perseus addressed him, ‘if renown of lineage may count, I take my line from Juppiter [Zeus], my father; or if deeds can win your admiration, mine you will admire. I ask for rest and lodging.’ But the giant recalled the oracle which Themis Parnasia had given: ‘Atlas, a time shall come when from your tree the gold shall be despoiled, and of that spoil a son of Jove shall boast.’ In fear he had walled his orchards all around with massive ramparts and for guardian set an enormous Draco; and drove off all strangers from the borders of his realm. To Perseus too ‘Away! Begone!’ he cried, ‘Or you shall find no joy in that renown your lies invent, no joy in Juppiter [Zeus].’, and added force to threats, as Perseus tried fair words at first, then bravely grappled him. But when he found his strength surpassed (for who could match the strength of Atlas?) ‘Very well!’ he taunted, ‘If you rate my thanks so low, accept a gift!’ and turned his face away and on his left held out the loathsome head, Medusa’s head. Atlas, so huge, became a mountain; beard and hair were changed to forests, shoulders were cliffs, hands ridges; where his head had lately been, the soaring summit rose; his bones were turned to stone. Then each part grew beyond all measure (so the gods ordained) and on his shoulders rested the whole vault of heaven with all the innumerable stars.” –Metamorphoses 4.627

"My [Niobe's] mother ranks as sister of the Pleiades. That great giant, Atlas, whose shoulders bear the circling sky, is one grandfather." -Metamorphoses 6.172

"This neck [of Herakles] sustained the sky [in place of Atlas]." –Metamorphoses 9.198

“Titan Tethys was once married to Oceanus, whose translucent waters scarf the broad earth. Their child Pleione couples with sky-lifting Atlas – so the story is – and bears the Pleiades.” –Ovid Fasti 5.79

“Atlas did not shoulder the load of Olympus yet, when lovely, eye-catching Hyas was born. Oceanus’ daughter, Aethra, bore him and the Nymphae in timely births, but Hyas was born first ... [Hylas while hunting] sought the lair and brood of the whelped lioness and was bloody prey to the Libyan beast. His mother sobbed for Hyas, his sad sisters sobbed and Atlas, whose neck would haul the world.” –Ovid Fasti 5.164

“[Aeneas to Euander:] Dardanus, the progenitor and founder of Ilium’s city, born, as the Greeks maintain, of Electra, daughter of Atlas, sailed to our Teucrian land: yes, Electra’s father was mighty Atlas who holds aloft on his shoulders the heavenly firmament. Now Mercurius [Hermes] is your father – Mercurius whom fair Maia conceived and bore upon the snowy peak of Cyllene. But Maia, if we believe at all the tales we have heard, was begotten by Atlas, the Atlas who props the starry sky.” –Aeneid 8.134

“You behold Atlas supporting the whole of heaven.” –Propertius 3.22

“These lands … lashed by the ocean, Neptunus’ [Poseidon’s] trident, and the slow workings of time the enemy sundered of yore, even as they did the shores of Sicily and Libya, when Janus [whose home was Italia] and Atlas, lord of the sunset mountains [in North Africa], were struck aghast at the crash.” –Valerius Flaccus 2.616

“There [depicted on the walls of the palace] iron Atlas stands in Oceano, the wave swelling and breaking on his knees; but the god himself [Helios the Sun] on high hurries his shining steeds across the old man’s body, and spreads light about the curving sky; behind with smaller wheel follows his sister [Selene the Moon] and the crowded Pleiades and the fires whose tresses are wet with dripping rain [the Hyades].” –Valerius Flaccus 5.408

"Towering Atlas shuddered and shifted the weight of heaven upon his trembling shoulders." –Thebaid 1.97

"With no effort carriest thyself [Gaia the Earth] star-bearing Atlas who staggers under the weight of the celestial realm." –Thebaid 8.315

“[Typhoeus to Zeus declaring his intentions when he seizes the throne of heaven:] ‘Break the bar of Olympos, self-turning, divine! Drag down to earth the heavenly pillar, let Atlas be shaken and flee away, let him throw down the starry vault of Olympos and fear no more its circling course – for I will not permit a son of Earth to be bowed down with chafed shoulders, while he underprops the revolving compulsion of the sky! No, let him leave his endless burden to the other gods, and battle against the Blessed Ones! Let him break off rocks, and volley with those hard shots the starry vault which he once carried! … Kronion [Zeus] also shall lift the spinning heavens of Atlas, and bear the load on weary shoulders” –Dionysiaca 2.259

“And away by the boundary of Libya my [the Pleiad Elektra’s] father still suffers hardship, old Atlas with chafing shoulders bowed, upholding the seven-zoned vault of the sky.” –Dionysiaca 3.349

“By the Tritonian Lake [in Libya], Kadmos the wanderer lay with rosycheek Harmonia, and the Nymphai Hesperides made a song for them, and Kypris [Aphrodite] together with the Erotes (Loves) decked out a fine bed for the wedding, hanging in the bridal chamber golden fruit from the Nymphai’s garden .... Her mother’s [ie Harmonia's stepmother Elektra] father the stooping Libyan Atlas awoke a tune of the heavenly harp to join the revels, and with tripping foot he twirled the heavens round like a ball, while he sang a stave of harmony himself not far away.” –Dionysiaca 13.333

“The waters of Khremetes [a river of North Africa] in the west, where that afflicted ancient, Libyan Atlas, wearily bends under the whirling heavens.” –Dionysiaca 31.103

"Atlas: He of whom myth tells that he holds up earth and heaven. 'And the iron shoulders of Atlas.' And a proverb: 'Atlas the heaven'; 'you lifted up' is omitted. [This is said] in reference to those who undertake great matters and encounter misfortune." -Suidas 'Atlas'

"According to the Judges of the Judaeans, Prometheus ... first discovered scholarly philosophy ... and Epimetheus, who discovered music; and Atlas, who interpreted astronomy, on account of which they say he holds up the heavens." -Suidas 'Prometheus'


* Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
* Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C9th-8th BC
* Homerica The Astronomy, Fragments - Greek Epic BC
* Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th BC
* Greek Lyric III Simonides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th-5th BC
* Greek Lyric V Polyidus, Fragments - Greek Lyric BC
* Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
* Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd BC
* Lycophron, Alexandra
* Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th AD
* Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
* Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st BC
* Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
* Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
* Ovid, Fasti - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
* Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st BC
* Propertius, Elegies – Latin Elegy C1st BC
* Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica – Latin Epic C1st AD
* Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st AD
* Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th AD
* Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicography C10th AD

Other references not currently quoted here: Diodorus Siculus 3.60; Servius on the Aeneid 1.745 & 4.247 & 8.134; Tzetzes on Lycophron 873

The Titanomachia in Hesiod

But when first their father [=Ouranos, father of Chronos] was vexed in his heart with Briareus and Cottus and Gyes, he bound them in cruel bonds, because he was jealous of their exceeding manhood and comeliness and great size: and he made them live beneath the wide-pathed earth, where they were afflicted, being set to dwell under the ground, at the end of the earth, at its great borders, in bitter anguish for a long time and with great grief at heart. But the son of Cronos [=Zeus] and the other deathless gods whom rich-haired Rhea bare from union with Cronos, brought them up again to the light at Earth's advising [=Gea, the mother of Briareus and Cottus and Gyes]. For she herself recounted all things to the gods fully, how that with these [three] they would gain victory and a glorious cause to vaunt themselves. For the Titan gods [on the one hand] and as many as sprang from Cronos [on the other] had long been fighting together in stubborn war with heart-grieving toil: the lordly Titans from high Othyrs; but the gods, givers of good, whom rich-haired Rhea bare in union with Cronos, from Olympus.

So they, with bitter wrath, were fighting continually with one another at that time for ten full years, and the hard strife had no close or end for either side, and the issue of the war hung evenly balanced. But when he had provided those three [Briareus and Cottus and Gyes] with all things fitting, nectar and ambrosia which the gods themselves eat, and when their proud spirit revived within them all after they had fed on nectar and delicious ambrosia, then it was that the father of men and gods [Zeus] spoke amongst them: 'Hear me, bright children of Earth and Heaven, that I may say what my heart within me bids. A long while now have we, who are sprung from Cronos, and the Titan gods fought with each other every day to get victory and to prevail. But do you show your great might and unconquerable strength, and face the Titans in bitter strife; for remember our friendly kindness, and from what sufferings you are come back to the light from your cruel bondage under misty gloom through our counsels.'

So he said. And blameless Cottus answered him again: `Divine one, you speak that which we know well: nay, even of ourselves we know that your wisdom and understanding is exceeding, and that you became a defender of the deathless ones from chill doom. And through your devising we are come back again from the murky gloom and from our merciless bonds, enjoying what we looked not for, O lord, son of Cronos. And so now with fixed purpose and deliberate counsel we will aid your power in dreadful strife and will fight against the Titans in hard battle.'

So he said: and the gods, givers of good things, applauded when they heard his word, and their spirit longed for war even more than before, and they all, both male and female, stirred up hated battle that day, the Titan gods, and all that were born of Cronos together with those dread, mighty ones of overwhelming strength whom Zeus brought up to the light from Erebus beneath the earth [Briareus and Cottus and Gyes]. An hundred arms sprang from the shoulders of all [three] alike [therefore their appelation, hecatoncheires or hundred-handed], and each had fifty heads growing upon his shoulders upon stout limbs. These, then, stood against the Titans [who were their brothers] in grim strife, holding huge rocks in their strong hands. And on the other part, the Titans eagerly strengthened their ranks, and both sides at one time showed the work of their hands and their might. The boundless sea rang terribly around, and the earth crashed loudly: wide Heaven was shaken and groaned, and high Olympus reeled from its foundation under the charge of the undying gods, and a heavy quaking reached dim Tartarus and the deep sound of their feet, in the fearful onset, and of their hard missiles. So, then, they launched their grievous shafts upon one another, and the cry of both armies as they shouted reached to starry heaven; and they met together with a great battle-cry.

Then Zeus no longer held back his might; but straight his heart was filled with fury and he showed forth all his strength. From Heaven and from Olympus he came forthwith, hurling his lightning: the bolt flew thick and fast from his strong hand together with thunder and lightning, whirling an awesome flame. The life-giving earth crashed around in burning, and the vast wood crackled loud with fire all about. All the land seethed, and Ocean's streams and the unfruitful sea. The hot vapour lapped round the earthborn Titans: flame unspeakable rose to the bright upper air: the flashing glare of the thunder-stone and lightning blinded their eyes for all their strength. Astounding heat seized Chaos: and to see with eyes and to hear the sound with ears it seemed even as if Earth and wide Heaven above came together; for such a mighty crash would have arisen if Earth were being hurled to ruin, and Heaven from on high were hurling her down; so great a crash was there while the gods were meeting together in strife. Also the winds brought rumbling earthquake and duststorm, thunder and lightning and the lurid thunderbolt, which are the shafts of great Zeus, and carried the clangour and the warcry into the midst of the two hosts. An horrible uproar of terrible strife arose: mighty deeds were shown and the battle inclined. But until then, they kept at one another and fought continually in cruel war.

And amongst the foremost Cottus and Briareos and Gyes insatiate for war raised fierce fighting: three hundred rocks, one upon another, they launched from their strong hands and overshadowed the Titans with their missiles, and buried them beneath the wide-pathed earth, and bound them in bitter chains when they had conquered them by their strength for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth to Tartarus.
(Hesiod, Theogony, 617ff)

August 30, 2003 in Gigantomachia/Titanomachia, Hesiod | Permalink

One of the best encapsulations of early

Greek myth and it's source material as a whole:
Theogony of Hesiod
Obscure Creation Myths

Hesiod was a Boeotian poet of either the 8th or 7th century BC, who is believed by many to flourish not long after Homer. Hesiod had written two poems, Works and Days and the Theogony. Both works can actually be combined to form an adequate Creation myth, though I had mostly relied on the Theogony.

The Theogony begins with Chaos and end with Zeus' reign, and it included the tale of Titanomachia, which is the war between the Titans and the Olympians. You will also find the about Prometheus and the Deluge.

It is in Works and Days, where you would find Hesiod's account of the Five Ages of Man, as well as the myth of Prometheus and Pandora. Prometheus stealing fire is also found in the other poem.

Below is the myth of Creation, where I have relied mainly on Hesiod's version, but my other sources included Apollodorus' Library and Ovid's Metamorphoses, to supplement Hesiod's myth.
War in Heaven and on Earth
Rise of the Olympians
Underworld, see House of Hades
Five Ages of Man
Saviour of Mankind

Before the beginning of the universe, there was nothing in existence until Chaos came into being. Who or what was Chaos was, the Greeks not really made clear. The Greeks usually associated Chaos as a male entity. Chaos could be personification of the abyss or void, a formless confusion.

Out of the void, came Nyx ("Night") and Erebus ("Darkness"). Also from Chaos - Eros ("Love"), Gaea ("Earth") and Tartarus came into being. It was Eros that made it possible for propagation between two beings – to produce offspring.

By her brother Erebus, Nyx became mother of Aether ("Upper Air") and Hemera ("Day"). This was the first sexual union. By herself, Nyx became mother of several abstract personifications: Thanatos ("Death"), Moros ("Doom"), Hypnos ("Sleep"), the Fates or Moerae and Nemesis.

Gaea, by herself, bore Uranus (Sky), Ourea (Mountains) and Pontus (Sea).

Gaea mated with her son Pontus and she became mother of two ancient sea-gods, Nereus and Phorcys, as well as Thaumas, Eurybia, and the sea monster Ceto.

Gaea married her other son, Uranus, and he became ruler of the universe. Gaea became the mother of the Titans, Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handed) and Cyclops ("Wheel-eyed"). The birth of their children resulted in a war by the gods that lasted for generation.

Works written by Hesiod:
Works and Days.
The Iliad was written by Homer.
Library was written by Apollodorus.

War in Heaven and on Earth


Uranus became ruler of the universe after marrying his mother, Gaea. Uranus was the father of the three giant creatures with hundred hands and fifty heads, Briareus, Cottus and Gyges. These giants were known as the Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handed). They were monstrous in size and strength. They were so ugly that Uranus hid them within their mother's body. Uranus probably did the same to his other three offspring known as the Cyclops. The Cyclopes were also giants, with a single eye in their foreheads. The three Cyclopes were named Arges, Brontes and Steropes. Imprisoning the six gigantic creatures within her body caused Gaea a great deal of pain.

The Titans were also his offspring, but they were smaller in size and fairer in looks. Unlike their ugly brethren they weren't imprisoned. Gaea was furious at the treatment of her earlier sons, so she appealed to her son, Cronus, youngest of the Titans, to overthrow her husband and his father.

At night, when Uranus was about to lay with his mother-wife (Gaea), Cronus castrated his father with an adamantine sickle and threw his father's genitals into the sea, near the island of Cythera. The Giants, Erinyes (Furies) and Meliae were born from the blood that fell on the ground, thereby impregnating her (Gaea). The Olympians would later fight the Giants, aided by the hero Heracles.

In the sea, the water began foaming around the severed genitals of Uranus. This foams drifted across vast distant of sea, before it reached the isle of Cyprus. From the foaming sea, Aphrodite, goddess of love, divinely beautiful and naked, sprang into being, already as fully grown young woman.

Waiting on the shore of Cyprus, Eros (Love) and Himerus (Desire) waited to greet her. The other gods paid honour to her. Aphrodite would later become the member of the Olympians, even though she was technically not an Olympian.

Cronus and the Titans

Cronus succeeded his father as ruler of the universe, and became leader of the Titans. He shared the earth with his brothers and sisters. Cronus married his sister, Rhea, his consort. It was during his reign that he created mankind, and ruled during the Golden Age.

Cronus however did not release his brothers, the Hundred-Handed and the Cyclops, from Tartarus. The whole purpose that Gaea instructed Cronus and the Titans to revolt against Uranus' rule was to release her other sons from Tartarus. Instead, Cronus had the monster Campe to guard the Hundred Handed and the Cyclopes, to prevent their escape from Tartarus.

This caused his mother to become angry with her son that she announced that Cronus would be in turn, be overthrown by his own son, like when Cronus overthrew his father.

Cronus tried to avoid this fate, by swallowing each child that his sister-wife (Rhea) gave birth to. The usual story is that, he swallowed all his children except his youngest Zeus. Rhea realising she would lose all of her children, gave her husband a stone wrapped in swaddling cloth. The unsuspecting Cronus swallowed the stone.

Rhea hid the infant Zeus in Crete, where he was brought up by nymphs and the Curetes. According to some, Zeus was born in Crete, while others say that his birthplace was in Arcadia, but he was hidden from his father at Crete. His home was in the cave of either Mount Ida or Mount Dicte. The infant Zeus was fed from the milk of the goat Amalthea. The Curetes were Cretan spirits or daimones, and were usually described and depicted as youths. The Curetes danced war-dance, clashing their spears against their shields so that Zeus' cries were drowned out by their noise. This part of myth may actually be of pre-Hellenic origin from Minoan Crete.

When Zeus had grown, he married one of daughters of the Titans (the Oceanids), Oceanus and Tethys, named Metis. From Gaea, he received a drug that would make Cronus disgorged the five older children that Cronus had swallowed. Metis gave Cronus the emetic, where he vomited up Zeus' brothers and sisters.

War broke out between the Titans against the younger gods known as the Olympians, led by Zeus. This war was known as the Titanomachia.

Zeus and his brothers required aids, since they were outnumbered. None of the female Titans (Titanesses) took part in the war. Of all the sons of Uranus and Gaea, Oceanus had chosen to remain neutral. When Zeus calls upon the younger Titans to help him, the first to change side was the Styx, the eldest daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. Styx came to Zeus with her children: Bia (violence), Cratus (strength), Nike (victory) and Zelus (emulation). For this reason, Zeus honoured her above the other gods, and gave special places to her children.

Prometheus and Epimetheus, the sons of Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene or Asia, had also defected to the Olympians, because Prometheus knew that the Zeus and his brothers would eventually win. Prometheus unsuccessfully tried to persuade his father Iapetus and his eldest brother, Atlas, to change side.

Gaea advise Zeus that her other children, the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handed would help him if he was to release them from their dungeons in Tartarus. So Zeus descended the netherworld and killed the guard, Campe, and released the prisoners.

The Cyclopes became known as master smiths and as master builders. The Cyclops was responsible for making several weapons for the younger gods: Thunderbolt for Zeus, the Trident for Poseidon, and the Cap of Invisibility for Hades.

Victory was ensured when Zeus also released the Hundred-Handed. Because there were three Hundred-Handed and each giant had a hundred hands, they could hurl 300 large boulders at the Titans.

The war last for ten years before the Olympians won, and most of the male Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus, the deepest region in the Underworld. Zeus set the Hundred-Handed to guard the Titans. The Cyclopes or their descendants worked in the forge of Hephaestus.

There was a special punishment for Atlas. In Libya, the western part of North Africa, Atlas had carried the weight of the sky upon his shoulders, for countless centuries.

Theogony and Works and Days were written by Hesiod.
Titanomachy was part of the Epic Cycle.
The Iliad was written by Homer.
Library was written by Apollodorus.
Argonautica was written by Apollonius of Rhodes.

Cronus and the Titans


Although, Zeus and the Olympians defeated the Titans, they were faced with an even mightier foe, the Typhon. Gaea had conceived the new offspring from her brother Tartarus.

Apollodorus gave a wonderful description of Typhon, in his work called the Library. Typhon was a gigantic winged monster that was part man and part beast. Typhon was also taller than the tallest mountain. Under Typhon's arms there was a hundred dragon-heads. Below his thighs were the massive coils of vipers. Typhon was a terribly horrifying sight and was deadly since flame would gush from his mouth.

Typhon was father by Echidna (daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, or else, Gaea and Tartarus, which make it Typhon's sister) of many monstrous offspring: Cerberus, Chimaera, Orthus, the Hydra, Nemean Lion, Sphinx, the Caucasian Eagle, the Crommyonian Sow and vultures.

There are few different versions on how Zeus defeated the Typhon. Here, I will relate to the most popular version of the myth.

When Typhon came and attacked the heaven, all the Olympians fled south from Typhon, to Egypt. The Olympians had transformed themselves into various animals to escape from the monster. Apollo had disguised himself into a crow, his sister Artemis into a cat, while Dionysus had changed into a goat, Hera into a snowy cow, Hermes into ibis, Aphrodite and Eros into fishes.

Only Zeus dared to confront Typhon. Zeus hurled his deadly thunderbolts, but as the monster drew closer, Zeus would attack Typhon with the sickle of adamantine (note that this is the same sickle that Cronus had used against his father Uranus, see War in Heaven and Earth; and possibly the same sickle used by Perseus to decapitate Medusa). The Typhon fled to Mount Casion in Syria.

Zeus seeing that the monster had being seriously wounded, he became over-confident. Typhon trapped Zeus in his massive coils, and with Zeus' sickle, Typhon managed to cut the sinews and tendons of Zeus' hands and had the god imprisoned in the cave. According to Apollodorus, Typhon had set a she-dragon Delphyne to guard this cave. Without his sinews, Zeus was helpless and could not wield the thunderbolts.

Hermes and Aigipan had somehow retrieved the sinews and rescued Zeus. After Zeus was restored of his sinews, Zeus regained the use of the thunderbolts.

Zeus wielded his mighty thunderbolts against Typhon, pursuing the monster to Sicily. Zeus defeated Typhon, and buried the monster under Mount Etna or the entire island of Sicily. The volcanic eruptions of Mount Etna were the result of Typhon's spewing out his fire.

Theogony and Works and Days were written by Hesiod.
Titanomachy was part of the Epic Cycle.
The Iliad was written by Homer.
Library was written by Apollodorus.
Pythian I was written by Pindar.

Rise of the Olympians

Zeus, the leader of the Olympians, became the supreme ruler of the universe. He shared the world with his two brothers, Poseidon and Hades. Through casting the lot, Zeus receive the heaven and became the god of the sky, including the rain and storm, while Poseidon became god of the sea and Hades ruled the Underworld, the world of the dead.

The younger gods were called Olympians because they made their home on or in the sky above Mount Olympus. Olympus was a mountain almost 3000 metres high, in northern Thessaly.

Five Ages of Man

The creation of mankind can be divided into five ages.

Cronus created the Golden Age. It was the happiest era for mankind, where people lived and died peacefully. There was no illness and no disease. They never suffer from hardship of war or toil of the earth. Foods were wild and plentiful. When they died they became spirits, becoming guardian of mankind.

But when the new gods arrived, they began experimenting on the creation of mankind, creating a new age. Each succeeding age would be inferior from the last, from excellent to worse.

The Silver Age was inferior to the Golden Age. It was time when the gods destroy them, because they refused to honour them.

The third period was the Bronze Age, which was populated with brazen men, who loved war for its own sake, until they destroyed themselves in continuous warfare.

This was followed by the Heroic Age. A race of demigods, heroes who would find themselves rewarded for their courage and heroic feats, at their death, in the Isles of the Blessed (Elysium).

The last age was the Iron Age. This was the worse age, where good will and decency would cease to exist. Men would suffer from great oppression by the wicked rulers. The rulers would only satisfy their own needs, because of their greed and thirst for power, until Zeus would destroy this race.

Related Information
Works and Days was written by Hesiod.
Library was written by Apollodorus.
Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Golden Age
Silver Age
Bronze Age
Heroic Age
Iron Age

Saviour of Mankind

Gift of the Fire

When Zeus became the supreme ruler of the universe, he was not interested with mortals, and began experimenting with the creation of mankind. The Titan, Prometheus, however, tried to protect mankind from the other gods. But in doing so Prometheus would bring about his own downfall.

Prometheus was one of the few males Titans to support the Olympians in the war against the Titans. Prometheus knew the Titans would lose the war, so he persuaded his brother to change side. Prometheus was an extremely intelligent and wise god, who was gifted with foresight. He failed to persuade his father Iapetus and his elder brother Atlas not to resist against Zeus, but without avail. Both Iapetus and Atlas were punished for opposing the Olympians.

Prometheus was guardian of mankind, often trying to aid them. Prometheus stole fire from the heaven, hiding the fire within a hollow fennel-stalk, and gave it to man (or he taught them how to make fire).

Prometheus had also tricked Zeus, to select the part of the sacrifice the gods and man will receive. He made sure that man receive the best part.

He cut a bull, and disguised the meat with its hide and entrails on top, while the bones were covered with fat. Zeus was angry with Prometheus, when he found out that he had selected the fat with only bones. The bones and fat were to be used to sacrifice to the gods, while man would keep the best meat for himself.


Zeus took his revenge upon mankind, by creating the first mortal woman, named Pandora. The gods gave her gifts before showing his creation to the rest of the world. Zeus gave Pandora to Prometheus' brother, Epimetheus, in marriage. Prometheus tried to warn his brother not to accept anything from Zeus, but Epimetheus did not listen to his wise brother.

One of the wedding gifts given to the new couple was a beautiful, large box. Pandora was told, to never open the box. But Pandora was curious; she wanted to know what was in the box.

One day, she opened the box. All sorts of misfortunes - sufferings and evils - had escaped, to plague mankind. In horror, Pandora quickly closed the lid, but it was too late. The only thing that did not escape was Hope. This was the only thing that provided comfort for mankind in their suffering.

Prometheus' Punishment

Prometheus did not escape Zeus' punishment, for giving fire to mankind. He was taken to Caucasian Mountains, and chained to the highest peak. Each day, a giant eagle (Caucasian Eagle) would come and feed on Prometheus' liver and entrails, causing the Titan to suffer in great agony.

Prometheus appeared in Aeschylus' play, Prometheus Bound (mid 5th century BC), where the Titan encountered a suffering heifer. This cow was a maiden named Io, daughter of the Argive river god, Inachus. Unfortunately, she was a high priestess of Hera, who was loved by Hera's husband, Zeus. Zeus tried to hide Io from Hera, by transforming the girl into a beautiful white cow. Hera asked for the heifer (Io) as a gift, which Zeus couldn't refuse. Hera knew who the cow was, anyway. Hera set a herdsman, named Argus Panoptes with hundred eyes, to guard Io, so that Zeus couldn't rescue Io. After Hermes had killed Argus Panoptes, Hera sent a gadfly to torment Io. The gadfly stung her repeatedly that Io began to wander through many distant lands.

When Prometheus met her, the Titan informed her that she would have her natural form restored to her one day, when she reaches Egypt. She would have a son by Zeus, and she would have descendants that produce powerful rulers and great heroes. Prometheus also foretold his own freedom, and reconciliation with Zeus. See Io, in the Heroines page.

The irony of Prometheus' punishment was that Heracles, son of Zeus, would release the Titan from his bondage. In returned for his freedom, Prometheus informed Heracles how to win the apples of Hesperides from Prometheus' own brother, Atlas.

Once Prometheus gained his freedom, the Titan, once again, shared his wisdom to Zeus. Prometheus warned Zeus not to seduce the sea goddess Thetis, because she would bear a son who would be greater than his father. Zeus avoided this fate by marrying Thetis to the hero Peleus.

There was another reason, why Prometheus was released. According to Hesiod, it was simply that Zeus wished to increase the glories and fames of his son (Heracles).

Related Information
Prometheus – "Forethought"
Epimetheus – "Afterthought"
Pandora – "The gift of all" or "All-endowed"

Theogony and Works and Days were written by Hesiod.
Prometheus Bound was written by Aeschylus.

Gift of the Fire
Prometheus' Punishment


Zeus decided to destroy the race of men with flood, for their wickedness and impiety. Zeus sending rain and storm while Poseidon send water from the sea, covering the land with water.

Prometheus managed to save his family, by warning them. Deucalion was his son by Pronoea. Deucalion had married Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. They built a chest stored with provision.

The flood lasted nine days and nights, when the chest landed at the peak of Mount Parnassus. Even though Zeus did not like Prometheus, the god was not angry that Deucalion and Pyrrha had survived the flood since they were pious couple.

However, Deucalion and Pyrrha were lonely, being the only survivors. They found a ruin temple and prayed to the goddess Themis. Themis told them to throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders.

At first they were outraged by such suggestion, until Deucalion correctly interpreted that the stones on the ground were the bone of mother earth (Gaea). As the two started throwing stones behind them, people sprung out of the earth. These people became known as the Stone People.

Deucalion and Pyrrha became parents of Hellen, Amphictyon, Protogeneia, Pandora and Thyia. Deucalion ruled in Phthia, and was succeeded by his son, Hellen.

Related Information
Library was written by Apollodorus.
Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.
Catalogues of Women was possibly written by Hesiod.
Olympian IX was written by Pindar.


Obscure Creation Myths

Hesiod was the not the only Greek poet who wrote about the Creation and the origin of gods and mankind. Hesiod's account is just one kind. The world was created from Chaos first, and then by the World Parents – Gaea (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven).

There are several different versions about the Creation. An older poet, Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, alluded to a different cosmogony to Hesiod. And then there are yet, other different cosmogonies that are involved with the Cosmic Egg.

One source involved the goddess Eurynome and the World Serpent Ophion. This source comes from Apollonius of Rhodes, a Hellenistic poet who wrote the Argonautica in the 3rd century BC.

While another tradition about the Creation by the Cosmic Egg, involved the gods Phanes or Protogonus, and Dionysus/Zagreus. This other tradition had come from the poems of the so-called cult of the Orphic Mysteries.

What these two Creation myths have in common is the Cosmic Egg that usually came into existence from void (chaos) or the abyss. The Cosmic Egg, World Egg or whatever other names it may have, it is a common and universal theme in creation myths, not only in these obscure Greek myths, but also from other cultures and civilisations. However, the Cosmic Egg is noticeably absent in Hesiod's Theogony.
Homeric Creation
Eurynome and Ophion
Orphic Creation
Cosmogony of Diodorus Siculus
Homeric Creation

In the Iliad, Homer had only briefly alluded to the creation. Hera seduced Zeus at Mount Ida, in the hope of turning the tide against the Trojans, by lulling her husband to sleep. To seduce Zeus, Hera required aids from other gods.

First, she sought aid from Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Hera wanted to borrow Aphrodite's girdle, which would make irresistibly seductive. Hera lied to Aphrodite saying that she wish to the relationship between Oceanus and Tethys, who had raised her. In fact, she was using it in the hope to seduce Zeus. Hera says that " see Oceanus, from whom the gods arose, and Mother Tethys" (quoted from Robert Fitzgerald's translation, Book XIV 199).

She used Hypnos to lull Zeus to sleep. Hypnos boasted to Hera that he could even lull Oceanus to slumber, "...the primal source of all that lives" (Book XIV 258-61). However, Hypnos was reluctant to help Hera, because the first time he helped her, he was almost thrown into the deep sea. Fearing Zeus' rage, Hypnos had to take refuge with his mother, Nyx (Night). Powerful as Zeus was, he feared the "all-subduing Night (Nyx)".

When she meet Zeus, Hera lied to him, when she mentioned Oceanus and Tethys that she wanted to patch their relationship up, since they have not slept together in a single bed, since they had last quarrel. Hera was saying the same thing that she said to Aphrodite moment before. (Book XIV 301-304).

To Homer, Oceanus and Tethys were more than Titans; they were referred to as the World Parents (Creators), displacing Uranus and Gaea, or that of Cronus and Rhea. Oceanus have a stream that completely circumvented the earth, which was a flat round disk. And Tethys was the mother of the gods.

Homer was more interested about the war at Troy, than about the Creation, so much have been left unsaid.

Related Information
The Iliad was written by Homer.

Eurynome and Ophion

According to Apollonius Rhodius, who mentioned a creation myth that was very different from that of Hesiod's Theogony. Apollonius' account is very short and rather sketchy.

Apollonius begins the myth, as one of the songs sang by Orpheus after the departure of the Argonauts from Iolcus. Orpheus was the mythical bard who had joined Jason and the Argonauts in the Quest.

Orpheus sang a song about how the world was originally cast in one single mould; the earth, sky and sea was all mixed up in this mould, until the mould was tore sunder from some internal turmoil within the Cosmic Egg. All of the sudden, the earth, sea and heaven were separated; mountains rose from the sea, while the sun and moon and stars travelled followed their path through the sky (something like the Big Bang).

Two of the earliest beings came into existence, during the creation of the world. One was named Eurynome, daughter of the Ocean (Oceanus), while her consort was named Ophion. Together they ruled the entire universe from Olympus.

But one day, the Titans Cronus and Rhea had violently displaced Ophion and Eurynome from Olympus. They had flung Ophion and Eurynome into the Ocean (as opposed to being confined in Tartarus, like in Hesiod's Theogony).

While Cronus and Rhea ruled the world and the Titans, Zeus was living in the Dictaean cave (in Crete), as an infant, long before he received the mighty thunderbolt from the Cyclopes.

The account ended here.

In the beginning, there was Time, which the Greeks called Chronus or Khronos. This was a period called the Unaging Time, when nothing existed and nothing grew old; indeterminate and (almost) limitless time, which some people would call Aeon. Existing at the same time as Chronus was Adrasteia, or Ananke, meaning "Necessity".

Chronus and Adrasteia combined to create primordial Spirit and Matter, which were called Aether and Chaos. (Hesiod had referred to Aether as the upper atmosphere, where the air was clean and pure; he referred to Aether as male entity, while in the Orphic myth, Aether was seen as female being. Chaos was fathomless void, abyss or the yawning gap. With Hesiod, Chaos was a male primordial being, whereas in Orphic myth, the role had changed.) A third primordial being came out of Time and Necessity, Erebus – "Darkness". Chronus then combined with Aether, or possibly with Chaos and Aether, so the primeval beings caused mists to form and solidify into a Cosmic Egg.

The Orphic myth was not the only one to use the Egg motif for their cosmogony. The World Egg can be found in many different Creation myths, such as from Egypt, Persia and India. After all the egg was the symbol of new birth and new life. That the god and the world were created from the Cosmic Egg. It wasn't even original idea in Greek myths. The Athenian comedy playwright, Aristophanes, wrote in the Birds that Nyx (Night) laid the egg, which Eros (Love) was born from. In Apollonius' epic, Argonautica, It was Eurynome who created the Egg, which the world as we know it, came into existence.

The Cosmic Egg was the first definable matter that was created out of infinity. The World Egg was gigantic and silver in colour. When the great resplendent, silver Egg hatched, out sprang Protogonus, which literally means First-born, the first god. According to one Neo-Platonist writer, the Egg shell split in two: the two shells forming heaven and earth.

Protogonus has known by several other names, such as Phanes, the god of light; Ericapaeus "Power", and Metis, which means "Intelligence". Writers often called him – Phanes. As Phanes, he was the primeval sun god with golden wings. He has four eyes, which allowed him to look in any direction. He was said to possess a number of heads in the shapes of various animals. He had a voice of bull and that of a lion. Though, he was said to be invisible, he radiated pure light.

Protogonus had been identified with Eros (Love); Hesiod's Eros was also an earlier god, born at the same time as Gaea and Tartarus. Sometimes, Phanes was called Dionysus; if this is the case, then he was the first of three incarnations of Dionysus.

Though people speak of him as a god, Protogonus/Phanes was in fact an androgynous being. Without a partner, he conceived and gave birth to Nyx (Night). (Different accounts say that it was Nyx, who laid the Cosmic Egg, therefore she was Protogonus' mother, not his daughter.)

Protogonus (Phanes) was the first supreme ruler of heaven. Either Nyx ruled with Protogonus or on her own. Some times later, he lay with his own daughter, and then he became the father of Earth and Heaven, which they were named Gaea and Uranus. So it was Protogonus who created the earth and heaven. It was also Protogonus who had created the Golden Age of Man.

Nyx ruled after Protogonus, before she abdicated in favour of her son, Uranus, who made Gaea as his consort.

What follow is similar to Hesiod's Theogony. Heaven and Earth were the parents of the three Hundred-Handed (Hecatoncheires) and the three Cyclopes. They were also the parents of the Titans; they had seven sons and seven daughters (see the tables for the list of the children of Uranus and Gaea, in the Titans page).

Among Uranus' children was Cronus, the evil Titan, who dethroned his father. In Hesiod's account, it was Gaea who conspired with his son, to rid of her husband, but in the Orphic myth, it was both Nyx and Gaea who brought about Uranus' downfall, using the Titans. Cronus castrated Uranus and threw his father's genitals into the sea. Foam formed in the sea, which drifted until it reach Cyprus and the love goddess Aphrodite sprung out of the sea.

Rhea was Cronus' consort, as well as his sister. In the Orphic myth, she was also confused with Demeter (Ceres), the corn goddess. Perhaps, Demeter was another aspect of Rhea. Cronus and Rhea had 6 children, including Zeus. Like Hesiod's Theogony, Cronus swallowed each child that Rhea bore him, except his youngest child, Zeus. Rhea hid the infant Zeus in a cave. Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband, which Cronus promptly swallowed, thinking he had swallowed his latest baby. Her name changed into Demeter, after Rhea gave birth to Zeus.

The Cretan nymphs Adrasteia and Idaea brought up Zeus, whom they fed milk of the goat Amaltheia. The Curetes had also assisted the nymphs.

How Zeus became the new supreme ruler of universe, which is a different variation to Hesiod's account. Zeus used honey to make Cronus drunk, disgorging Zeus' siblings, before Zeus dismembered his father, just as had Cronus done with his own father (Uranus).

It was Nyx (Night) who had advised Zeus to swallow her father/consort, Protogonus (Phanes), the first god and the original Creator. Zeus swallowed Protogonus and the entire universe that Protogonus had created, which included the other gods. With Protogonus in his belly, Zeus gained new power and knowledge, which he used to create a new universe. Whole new sun, planets, stars, mountains, land and seas were recreated. The other gods were also reborn.

Zeus ruled supreme, but he shared the world with his brothers: Poseidon received the sea and Hades got the subterranean domain of the dead, the netherworld (Underworld). Zeus ruled the sky, but they all shared the earth.

Zeus had married many times. He had as many as seven wives, and three of them were his own sisters: Hestia, Demeter (or Rhea) and Hera. (Well, sometimes Demeter, as Rhea, was seen as Zeus' mother.)

Zeus had many children from various wives and mistresses. Some of these children became important deities; among them were Athena, Hermes, Apollo and Artemis, Ares and Hephaestus. See the Olympians page.

From Demeter, Zeus, became the father of Persephone (Kore). Demeter and Persephone were living in the Dictean cave of the island Crete, where they were guarded by snakes.

(According to other writers, after Zeus had overthrown his father Cronus, Rhea or Demeter tried to escape from nuptials with her own son, by assuming the form of snake. Zeus also turned himself into a snake and raped Rhea. So that Rhea (Demeter) became the mother of Persephone.)

Zeus wanted a son to one-day rule in his place, and decided that his own daughter, Kore or Persephone, would be the mother of that son. Zeus secretly transformed himself into a snake, and lay with his daughter. Persephone became pregnant and became the mother of Dionysus (Zagreus).

Earlier Orphic writers called him Dionysus, but the Neoplatonist writers, sometimes called him Zagreus. The Neoplatonists also believed that Dionysus/Zagreus was a reincarnation of Protogonus/Phanes, whom Zeus had swallowed earlier. For the sake of convenience I will call Dionysus, son of Persephone, as Zagreus, so we can distinguish one Dionysus from the other.

While Zagreus was still an infant, Zeus placed the sceptre in his son's tiny hand, and announced before all the gods that Zagreus will become their new ruler.

Zeus' other wife, Hera, was jealous that Zagreus would become the next ruler of the gods; so she incited the Titans to murder the infant Zagreus (Dionysus). The Titans, who were dispossessed, became Zeus' worse enemies, so they readily agreed.

The Titans painted their face white, and they lured the infant Zagreus from the safety of the cave, with toys, such as mirror, doll, knuckle bones, and spin-top called bull-roarer. Zagreus left the cave before he realised that he was in danger. Zagreus tried to escape, by assuming various transformations. When the Titans caught him, they tore him to pieces before they devoured him. Athena arrived in time to save the Zagreus' heart, which she brought to her father. Athena had managed to keep the heart alive and beating, by breathing life into it.

Enraged that the Titans had attacked his son, Zeus hurled his mighty thunderbolts, blasting the Titans to ashes. From the ashes of the Titans, mankind rose.

(The dual natures of the Orphic belief come from that all men have two different natures: good and evil, earthly and spiritual (immortal), Dionysiac and Titanic. Since the Titans had consumed Dionysus, the evil nature comes from the Titans, while good comes from the Dionysiac part. To gain entry to Elysium, the initiated of the Orphic Mysteries must live a good, ascetic life in three separate incarnations. See Orphic Mysteries.)

It was still Zeus' intention to leave the kingship of the universe to one of his sons, and that son would have been Zageus/Dionysus. Zeus swallowed Zagreus' heart, and visited a mortal woman, named Semele, daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes, whom he seduced and made pregnant. (According to Hyginus, Zeus created mead out of Zagreus' heart, which he gave to Semele to drink. This was how she became pregnant.)

The myth of Semele's death and the birth of Dionysus is the same with usual myth about Dionysus. The jealous Hera duped Semele into asking for a fatal boon from Zeus, which she died, but Zeus saved the unborn child, by sewing the baby into his thigh. When it was time, Dionysus was born again, from the thigh of Zeus. (Hyginus omitted about Dionysus being born from Zeus' thigh.)

Dionysus was a reincarnation of the god Zagreus, son of Persephone.

There is also an Orphic version, of the abduction and **** of Persephone (Kore) by Hades, and the myth of Demeter's wandering. Several aspects of the myth of Demeter and Persephone have also changed.

Since Dionysus' life in the Orphic myth is the same told elsewhere, the Orphic Creation ends here. But there is no doubt that when the time came, Zeus would step down from the throne; Dionysus would ascend, and be crowned.

According to the Orphic myths, six rulers had reign in heaven: Protogonus/Phanes, Nyx, Uranus, Cronus, Zeus and Dionysus. Dionysus was the reincarnation of Zagreus/Dionysus, as well as the reincarnation of Protogonus.

In Hesiod's account about the creation, he only mentioned Cronus swallowing his children: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Poseidon and Hades, and later on Zeus swallowing the pregnant Metis.

In the Orphic myths, the cannibalism of the gods is even more evident. Cronus swallowed his children; Zeus swallowed Phanes/Protogonus and the entire universe; Zeus swallowed Metis; the Titans devoured Dionysus/Zagreus and Zeus swallowing the heart of Dionysus/Zagreus. It seemed that birth follow by death, which in turn is then followed by rebirth.

Related Information
Library of History was written by Diodorus Siculus.
Fabulae was written by Hyginus.
Description of Greece was written by Pausanias.
Dionysiaca was written by Nonnus.
Platonic Theology was written by Proclus.
Orphic Fragments.
Orphic Hymns.
The Theogonies was written by Damascius.
Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.
Theogony and Works and Days were written by Hesiod.
Birds was written by Aristophanes.

Cosmogony of Diodorus Siculus

According to the 1st century BC historian, Diodorus Siculus, Oceanus and Tethys were the source of all gods.

To Diodorus, Uranus was the first king, and not really a god at all. Uranus was the first to gather people together into the first walled city, giving them laws, and teaching to how grow their crops and store food.

Uranus was also an astronomer and astrologer, who could foresee the future, and made many predictions.

Uranus was the father of forty-five sons from different wives, but it was from his consort Titaea, that eighteen of his sons became known as the Titans. She had also bore many daughters, including Basileia and Rhea. When Titaea died, she was deified as the goddess, whose name was Ge (Gaea).

Basileia was the eldest, and had reared her brothers, which was why she was known as the Great Mother. Basileia would be identified as Hesiod's Theia, because of her relationship with her brother and children, but Diodorus also identified her with the Phrygian goddess, Cybele. She ruled after her father's death and deification, also as a god. She had married her brother, Hyperion, and became the mother of Helius and Selene.

Her other brothers (Titans) were jealous and feared that Hyperion would keep the royal power to himself. The Titans conspired to remove Hyperion, so they killed him and threw Helius into Eridanus River, where her son drowned. In her grief, Selene threw herself off the high city wall.

Basileia sought along the Eridanus to find her son's body, until she dropped from exhaustion. Here, she had a vision of her son, telling her no to grieve for him or his sister, because they were transformed into the sun god and moon goddess. The Titans would also be punished for their crime.

When Basileia recovered from her swoon, she told her people about her vision, before she was seized by madness, wandering the land with her daughter's playthings, such as the kettledrums and cymbals. One day, in a thunderstorm, she vanished, and her people assumed that she had been transformed into a goddess. They erect an altar in her honour.

After the death of Hyperion and Basileia, the kingdom was divided between her brothers, Atlas and Cronus. Atlas became the ancestor of the Atlantides, the people in western Libya, giving the name to Mount Atlas. Because Atlas was a great astronomer and astrologer, he published the book on the doctrine of the sphere. It was for this reason, why Atlas was usually seen as a man holding the heaven on his shoulders. Atlas was the father of a son, named Hesperus, and of seven daughters, known as the Pleiades.

As to Atlas' brother, Cronus was a greedy and impious ruler, who married his sister Rhea. She bore him Zeus, one of the Olympian. Diodorus also mentioned another Zeus, who was brother of Uranus and king of Crete. Cronus was the king of Libya, Sicily and Italy.

Zeus won the kingdom in a war against his father and the Titans. Unlike his father, Zeus was virtuous ruler - wise and just, and when he died, the people claimed he became god and ruler of the universe.


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