I recently had a conversation about a subject close to my heart – Greek Mythology. I don’t profess to be an expert in mythology, Greek or otherwise, but here’s the abridged version of what I do know:
The ancient Greeks, like the ancient Romans, and many other cultures, didn’t believe in just one God, they believed in many. In Greek mythology, the Gods originated something like this:
In something akin to evolutionary theory, first there nothing – Chaos – out of which came Gaia (the earth). There was also Eros (love), the Tartarus (the Abyss, which I think is perhaps most easily described as hell), and Erebus (a dark shadow). (Rightly or wrongly, I always associate this with Freud’s shadow.)
I don’t see any of this as being very different from the earth, air, fire and water that we see in other cultures. Maybe not exactly the same, but there are analogies in the properties.
Gaia gave birth to Uranus by means of asexual reproduction (as happened with all life on this planet in its early days), then, as a result of a union between Gaia and Uranus, the first of the Titans (the elder Gods) were born.
There were six males: Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus and Cronus.
And six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themys and Tethys.
They all had different attributes, good and bad. Cronus was the youngest of the Titans, and Mum and Dad decided that there should be no more offspring after this. However, Cyclopes (with the one eye in the centre of his forehead and Hecatonchires (hundred-handed ones) soon appeared.
Both Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were thrown into Tartarus, which did not impress Gaia one bit. In fact, she was decidedly pee’ed off (she was their mother, after all), consequently, Gaia persuaded Cronus to do a Lorena Bobbitt on his father (for those of you who don’t know, Lorena cut off her husband’s penis. Technically that is not castration but it’s a pretty effective way of making a point). Cronus castrated his father and became the ruler of the Titan’s. Rhea, his sister, but also his wife (how weird is this?) was his consort.
Rhea and Cronus were the parents of Zeus (thus, Rhea is known as the mother of the Gods). Cronus feared that his children would behave towards him as he had to his father (quite a reasonable concern, I should have thought) so whenever his wife gave birth, he ate the child.
Strangely enough, Rhea was not happy with this, so when she gave birth to Zeus, she hid him. When Zeus was grown up, Rhea drugged and poisoned Cronus and he vomited up all the other children. One wonders whether Cronus had a history of indigestion?
Long story short, Zeus and Cronus had a disagreement and, with the help of Cyclopes (whom Zeus had freed), they beat Dad. Cronus and the rest of the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus and so the reign of the Olympian God’s began.
Zeus’s wife, Metis, was expecting, however, there had been a prophecy that she would give birth to a God greater than him, so Zeus ate his wife. (There’s a bit of a theme emerging here.). The daughter Metis was carrying at the time of her demise – Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, reason, intellect and the arts and literature, burst forth through Dad’s head, fully grown when he ate her mother. (That’s what I call girl power!).
Greek Mythology continues to be equally complicated and violent. Here’s a quick overview of the Gods and Goddesses:
Zeus – became the supreme God after he kicked his Dad’s butt.
Hera – the Goddess of marriage and family, wife of Zeus. Zeus was a bad boy, but Hera didn’t take it lying down.
Aphrodite – was born out of the foam when Cronus threw his father’s testicles into the ocean. She was reputedly bad-tempered and jealous, as well as being the goddess of sexual love, and was married to Hephaestus.
Apollo – The son of Zeus and Leto, the God of music. He was the twin of Artemis (the huntress) and is usually known as the sun God.
Artemis – One of the virgin goddesses, and the huntress. She is called Diana in Roman mythology.
Ares – son of Zeus and Hera, he was the God of War and Aphrodite’s lover.
Athena – Daughter of Zeus and Metis. As well as the attributes I listed above, she is also the Goddess of War.
Demeter – sister of Zeus, goddess of agriculture and vegetation. She was the mother of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld.
Dionysus – the Greek God of Wine, (yay!). Otherwise known as Bacchus, he was the son of Zeus and Semele.
Hades – sometimes known as Pluto, the brother of Zeus. He ruled the Underworld and was married to Persephone.
Hephaestus – husband of Aphrodite, apparently he was a bit lacking in the looks stakes. He was the God of metallurgy.
Hermes – the messenger of the Gods. Son of Zeus and Maea (she was a nymph, and a daughter of one of the Titans, some serious interbreeding going on here).
Hestia – the eldest daughter of Rhea and Cronus, the goddess of the hearth, home and family. In Roman mythology, she was known as Vesta, she of the virgins fame…
Poseidon – aka Oceanus, the older brother of Zeus, ruler of the oceans.
Now doesn’t that little taste make you want to find out more?
© Susan Shirley 2016