Page last updated on: 01 Mar 2021
The First Greek Gods and Goddesses
The ancient Greeks, trying to explain certain metaphysical phenomena and fears, invented amazing myths about cosmogony (the creation of the world) and theogony (the birth of the gods). Thus, the ancient Greeks created their own magnificent, but human-like world of gods and justified the various abstract meanings such as love, birth or death.
The origins of the gods of ancient Greek religion are described in the Theogony, the famous poem written by the Greek writer Hesiod around 700 BC, and in the Library of Apollodorus. The creation of the gods must be divided into four parts:
The Coming into Existence of Chaos
First there was Chaos, a rough disordered mass of things, also considered a void. Chaos was followed by Gaea (Earth) and Eros (Desire), which would suspend any logical thought or action. Gaea then brought Uranus (the sky), the infinite Pontus (the sea) with its roaring waves and high mountains full of forests into the world.
The Castration of Uranus
Uranus' task was to surround and cover Gaea with his mantle of stars, however, very soon a union occurred between Uranus and Gaea and they became the world's first divine couple.
Gaea bore Uranus twelve Titans: the deep Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, the gold-crowned Phoebe the lovely Tethys, and Cronus, who was the youngest of all. She also begat three one-eyed creatures, the Cyclopes (Brontes, Steropes and heady Arges), and three hundred-handed creatures, the Hecatonchires.
Uranus feared that his children would overthrow him, so one by one he pushed his children back into the womb of Gaea. His wife Gaea was in deep grief over the loss of her own children, so she finally decided to put a sickle in the hand of her son Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, to castrate his father.
Cronus castrated his father while he slept; the blood of Uranus was collected by Mother Earth Gaea and she gave birth to Erinyes (Furies), giants and nymphs. Cronus then threw his father's genitals into the sea, whereupon foams were formed, beginning on the island of Kythera and then slowly making their way to the island of Paphos, in modern Cyprus. In Paphos, the foams transformed into Aphrodite, the Olympian goddess of love and beauty.
The Great Escape of Zeus from the Threat of Cronus
Soon after, Cronus saved his brothers and sisters and shared the world (cosmos) with them. Then Cronus married his sister Rhea and together they fathered children who would later become the Olympian gods.
However, Cronus also became fearful, so he began to swallow his own children, just like his father. Rhea was very unhappy, and in order to save her youngest child, Zeus, she tricked her husband by giving him a huge stone to swallow. Rhea then sent Zeus to the Greek island of Crete to protect him.
The Victorious Battle of the Olympian Gods against the Titans (Titanomachy)
Zeus grew up on the island of Crete. He was fed by the goat Amaltheia and the nymphs took good care of him. Doves brought him ambrosia to eat from far away and an eagle brought him nectar to drink. When he reached manhood, as prophesied, Zeus rescued his five older brothers and sisters and then began a war against his father and the Titans. This war is also known as the Titanomachy. In this battle, Zeus succeeded in overthrowing Cronus and throwing him and the other Titans into the depths of the underworld. A huge battle with the giants ensued, in which the Olympian Gods excelled... and then the time had come for the Olympian gods to rule the world!
- "The Theogony" by Hesiod
- The Library of Apollodorus