Uranus (1610) by Tycho Brahe (Source Wikimedia)

In the beginning, all that existed was the vast empty universe, devoid of life and creation except for a black winged bird named Nyx.  She laid a golden egg and sat upon it until eventually it hatched, given birth to Eros, the god of love. The egg had been split in two pieces and one half rose up and became the sky, Uranus, and the other half became mother earth, Gaia.

The Rule of the Greek God Uranus

Uranus and Gaia instantly fell in love and they mated, producing a number of childran including the twelve Titans, three Cyclopes and the three Hecatoncheires (giants with fifty heads and one hundred arms). However it soon emerged that Gaia’s love for her husband was misplaced as he mistreated both her and their offspring. He imprisoned the Hecatoncheires in Gaia’s womb, infuriating his wife who began a plot against him.

She fashioned a sickle from flint and told her children that they must attack their father, however one by one they refused. They all believed Uranus to be too powerful to be removed from his position of authority, all that is except the youngest of the Titans, Cronus, who agreed to do the deed despite his fear.

The Mutiliation of Uranus by Saturn (Cronus) (c. 1560) by Giorgio Vasari (Source Wikipedia)

The Titan and his mother hatched a plan and while Uranus lay with Gaia one night, Cronus took hold of his father and castrated him with the sickle. This forced him to withdraw from the earth for good but before he did, he swore to his son that all the Titans would be punished for this act of defiance. From the sky god’s spilt blood the Giants, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Erinyes (goddesses who avenged crimes against the natural order) were born and from the sea foam where his genitals fell after Cronus threw them into the ocean came Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, love, pleasure and procreation.

The Rule of Cronus the Titan

Cronus was now the most powerful of the gods and became ruler of the Titans, imprisoning the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus, a dungeon of torment and suffering in the underworld. He married his sister Rhea and over the ages of his rule, they and the other Titans had many children.

However as both his mother and his father had prophesised that one day he would be overthrown by his son as he had once usurped his father’s position of power, this was not a good thing for Cronus. In a bid to avoid this fate, as each of his children was born he swallowed them; though as they were immortals this did not kill them. Instead they lived inside him, growing and reaching maturity trapped in their intestinal prison seemingly without hope of ever escaping.

Cronus devouring Poseidon (1630s) by Peter Paul
Rubens (Source Wikipedia)

The Rise of Zeus – King of the Gods

Like her mother before her, Rhea became infuriated at the treatment of her children and sought to protect them. After seeing her husband digest her first five children, she concealed the birth of her sixth and sent the baby of to be raised by nymphs on Crete. When Cronus inquired after the child, she wrapped a stone in a blanket and gave it to him, tricking him into swallowing that instead. The child was named Zeus and as he grew, he looked for ways in which he would be able to defeat his father. Metis, a wise, cunning Titan goddess concocted a drink for him to give to Cronus that would make him throw up so violently, Zeus’s siblings would be freed.

He returned to the home of his father disguised as a cup bearer and delivered the drink to the unsuspecting Cronus, who promptly regurgitated his unharmed children. The three male gods then drew lots to decide who would lead them; Hades lost and became the god of the underworld, Poseidon became the god of the sea and Zeus became king of the gods and would rule over the sky, thunder & lightning, law, order and justice.

The Battle of the Titans and Gods

In a bid for revenge for the treatment they endured at the hands of Cronus, the younger gods waged war on the older generation of deities. The battle of the Titans and gods lasted for a decade and it seem as if the Titans, led in combat by the great warrior Atlas, would destroy the young upstart army. Zeus realised that they needed help so he took himself off to the underworld and freed the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, all of whom were more than willing to help their nephew to gain vengeance for their imprisonment in Tartarus, orchestrated by Cronus himself.

The battle between the gods and the Titans,(1600) by Joachim Wtewael (Source Wikimedia)

The Cyclopes provided Zeus with lightning bolts, which proved to be formidable weapons and the Hecatoncheires were charged with lying in ambush. Zeus then lured his enemy into his trap at which time the three one-hundred armed monsters rained boulders down on the Titan army with such ferocity that they thought the mountains were falling on them, causing them to break and given Zeus and his siblings the victory.

The Titans who had fought against the younger gods were exiled to Tartarus, all except Atlas who had so fiercely led them in battle. For him, Zeus devised a special punishment and made him hold the world on his shoulders for all eternity.  However the new ruling deities could not relax just yet as Gaia, furious that her offspring had been challenged and defeated, gave birth one last time to Typhoeus, a storm god who was so fearsome that most of the gods fled in his wake. Zeus however, was undeterred and defeated his enemy using the lightning bolts that he had earlier received from his uncles, the Cyclopes.

Prometheus and the Creation of Man

Though they were Titans, Prometheus and Epimetheus had not fought against the gods so were spared the fate of their brothers and sisters and were tasked with creating man and the animals. Prometheus fashioned man out of mud and Athena breathed life into him while Epimetheus was assigned the duty of giving the creatures of the earth their various abilities and talents. He dished out swiftness, cunning, strength, fur and wings but unfortunately by the time he got around to man, all the best qualities were gone. In a bid to address this inequality, Prometheus decided to make man stand upright just as the gods did, got Athena to bestow reason on him and against the wishes of Zeus, he gave them fire.

Prometheus watches as Athena bestows reason and understanding on Man (c.1887) by Christian
Griepenkerl (Source Wikipedia)

Prometheus, who loved his new creation, decided to trick Zeus after he declared that man must give a part of each animal they kill as a sacrifice to the gods. The Titan presented two piles of meat to the king of gods; one was bones wrapped in juicy fat and the other had the good meat hidden away in the hide. Zeus picked the bones and as he had given his word of honour, had to accept that part of the animal as sacrificial from then on.

However, though he had to keep his word, it did not mean that he appreciated being tricked and as punishment, he took fire away from Prometheus’ beloved man. The Titan travelled to the sun and lit a touch, giving fire back to man on his return, infuriating Zeus in the process. Now livid, Zeus decided to punish man for their creator’s crime so he had Hephaestus create a new mortal being of stunning beauty and bade Hermes to give the new mortal a deceptive heart and a lying tongue.

The creation was the first woman, Pandora, who arrived on earth with a jar which she had been forbidden to open. Soon however, her curiosity got the better of her and out of the jar came a range of evils, misfortunes, plagues and sorrows but right at the bottom of the jar, she found hope. With man suitably punished for Prometheus’ crimes, Zeus turned to the Titan himself. He had him bound to a rock with unbreakable chains and had him tortured by a giant eagle, which would tear out his liver by night, only for it to be regenerated by his immortal flesh in the day so that it could be torn out repeatedly, over and over again.

Prometheus Bound (c.1640) by Jacob Jordaens (Source Wikipedia)


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