Greek mythology: Gaia’s revenge

Gaia the Earth Mother

Gaia – Public Domain

In Greek mythology Gaia  appeared out of Chaos and was the primal Mother Goddess who gave birth to the Earth and the universe.  According to some sources she was seen as the personification of the Earth and the mother of all.

Ouranos the god of the skies

Ouranos was the personification of the sky or the heavens in Greek mythology and is also known by his Latinized name of Uranus. He was also known as Father Sky.  Sources differ but  Hesiod in his work Theogony says that Gaia was his mother while other sources say his father was Aether.

Gaia gave birth to Ouranos who became the sky crowned with stars and of equal splendor to her and made so as to fully cover her. She then created the mountains and the sea. After the universe had been formed the next task was to populate it.

The birth of the Titans

Ouranos was not only her son but her husband too. Gaia united with Ouranos to give birth to the twelve Titans, six male and six female and the first race upon the earth. Their sons names were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus, and their daughters names were Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys.

The birth of the Cyclops

Ouranos and Gaia then produced the Cyclops, who were named Brontes, Steropes and Arges. These were giants with one eye in their foreheads and who possessed incredible strength.

The birth of Briareus, Cottus and Gyes

Their next offspring were three monsters who each had one hundred powerful arms and fifty heads. They were known as the Hecatonchires, or the Centimanes, and their names were Briareus, Cottus and Gyes.

Ouranos regarded his children with horror and revulsion and was also thought to be fearful of their strength, and possibly usurping him. As soon as they were born he imprisoned them in  the earth, which was inside Gaia who was the Earth goddess.

Gaia’s revenge

Victory, Janus, Chronos, and Gaea – by Giulio Romano – Public Domain

Gaia was distraught at this, and feeling great sorrow for her children and great pain for herself planned vengeance against Ouranos. From her bosom she manifested a sharp sickle and asked her children to join in with a plan she had made to set them free and wreak vengeance. The plan was to castrate Ouranos when he visited her at night. Only Cronus agreed to help her and she gave him the sickle.

When evening fell Ouranos returned to rejoin Gaia. While Ouranos was asleep, Cronus and Gaia mutilated him, cutting off his genitals and throwing them in the sea. From the blood that seeped from the terrible wound onto the earth sprang the Furies, the Giants and the ash-tree nymphs. From what was thrown into the sea the goddess of love and desire, known as Aphrodite, was born.

Cronus becomes king of the gods

With Ouranos now impotent and the sky separated from the earth, Cronus liberated his fellow Titans, but not the Cyclops and Hecatonchires, and became king of the gods. Later he too was to be deposed by his son Zeus, who became the chief god of the Greek Pantheon.

References and attributions

Copyright 25/03/2015 zteve t evans

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Greek mythology: Doris the Oceanid

According to wikipedia.org, Hesiod along with Homer was a Greek oral poet whose work has survived the centuries. His writings on farming, astronomy, time-keeping and mythology serve as a major source of information for scholars. One of his works, Theogony, explains the origins of the cosmos and the genealogy of the gods.

Doris - Public Domain

Doris – Public Domain

There is very little known about Doris and she is barely mentioned in any myths or legends. According to Hesiod, Doris was the daughter of the Titan, Oceanus and Tethys, the Titaness.

Doris was an Oceanid, or sea nymph, and was the sister of many other such nymphs such as Clymene, Calypso, Styx, Metis, and Tyche. The Oceanids were named from their father, Oceanus. Doris was also the aunt of Atlas whose task was to carry the world on his shoulder. Her sister Clymene was the mother of Atlas.

She is briefly mentioned in the myth of Phaethon for taking refuge in the darkest places of the earth with her husband to escape the excessive heat of Phaethon’s fiery ride in the chariot of Helios. A ride which nearly destroyed the world.

In Greek mythology she was the wife of the sea god Nereus and between them they were parents of the Nereids, These were fifty in number and were very beautiful and include Psamathe, Galatea, Amphitrite, and Thetis.

The most famous of these was Thetis, who was the mother of Achilles and Galatae who Polphemus the Cyclops fell in love with. Galatae rejected Polphemus and instead fell in love with a shepherd, Acis. Polphemus killed Acis with a boulder in revenge.

Arethusa, a nymph, was also a daughter of Doris changed by Artemis into a fountain so she could escape the pursuit of Alpheus.

The Nereids also played a part in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts by helping to guide the ship in the encounter with Charbdys and Scylla, and the Wandering Rocks.

Nereus was sea god of some significance, being the son of the god Pontus, who was considered the personification of the sea, by Hesiod. He considered to be an old man with the gift of prophecy. He was known for his wisdom and devotion to truth and justice. He was also called the Old Man of the Sea.

She was not a resident goddess on Mount Olympus and Doris does not play a significant part in Greek mythology other than as wife to Nereus and mother to the Nereids. Her name means bounty of the sea and was the god of rich fishing grounds at the mouths of rivers, where fresh water mingles with salt water.

Copyright July 30, 2009 zteve t evans

References and Attribitions

Copyright July 30, 2009 zteve t evans

Greek mythology: The Moirai

In Classical Greek mythology the description of the Moirai differs from age to age and also with location. They vary in number from one to four. This discussion is based on the account of the Greek poet, Hesiod who was believed to have lived in the eighth century BC.

It was the task of the Moirai to shadow human beings from birth to death throughout their mortal, physical life on earth. They take the form of three old women spinning out the threads of each person’s life on earth.

Fates_tapestry

Their names were: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos and when death approaches, it is their task is to ensure that and the natural order is preserved and a person’s fate is meted out accordingly. They are believed to sing in harmony with the Sirens when death approaches and were also known as the Fates.

Clotho represents the thread of life that begins at the birth of a mortal and is the spinner of that thread and sings of those things that are.

Lachesis was the dealer of lots. Through her people were given their chances in life and it was up to them to make the best of it. It was she who measured the thread of life. She sings of the things that were.

Atropos is the smallest and most fearsome of the three and represented the irrevocable fate that awaits a person and in the end there can be no appeal. It was she who cut the thread of life at a mortal’s death. She sings of the things that will be.

The lives of all living things were presided over by the Moirai. They apportioned everyone their share of good and evil at birth. The manner in which they conducted their lives could change the allotted portions of good and evil.

Not even the gods could change fate and if Zeus alone had such power he was reluctant to use it to disturb the natural order of the world.

The only time the Moirai were foiled in their task was by the physician, Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who revived a man, bringing him back from death. The Moirai then persuaded Zeus to kill Asclepius with a thunderbolt.

Just as the Moirai were the delegates of Zeus to ensure the natural order was carried out the Keres task was to carry out the decrees of the Moirai, and were sometimes confused with them. It was the Keres who appeared at the final hour of a mortal’s life to ensure death.

It was believed that during battles they could be seen hovering over the doomed mortal ready to ensure his fate was complete. They killed the wounded and drank their blood and were also known as the dogs of Hades.

In Greek, the word moira means a part, or portion, and it was the Moirai who decided a mortal’s portion in life at their birth and followed their life to ensure destiny was fulfilled. The Moirai also had the gift of prophecy and were honoured among the gods sitting in their assemblies and giving advice on the destinies of mortals.

Their myth is perhaps best seen as a way to describe the fate of mortal human beings and to try and make some sense out of the human cycle of life and the ultimate destiny of death.

Copyright July 7, 2009 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright July 7, 2009 zteve t evans

Greek Mythology: The Fall of Phaethon

The Fall of Phaethon – Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617). Public Domain

Greek mythology contains many stories that have relevance and significance today.  The story of Phaethon’s downfall is one such myth.  Phaeton was a young man who felt embarrassed and humiliated because he was illegitimate and did not know who his father was. He knew his mother who loved him and he had sisters who loved him but this was not enough.

Ever since he was a boy his play mates had taunted him because he had no father and was illegitimate.  This upset him greatly so one day he went to his mother, Clymene and begged her to tell him who is father was.   His mother told him his father was the sun god, Helios (Apollo).

Phaethon Begs His Father A Favor

Excited by the thought that the great god of the Sun was his father Phaethon went to see Helios and told him what his mother had said. Helios had not known he had a son by Clymene and was pleased and proud to discover that he was Phaethon’s father.   Phaethon was ecstatic that his father was the powerful and important god of the sun and wanted everyone to know the truth.  He begged his father a favor which Helios rashly granted without knowing what it was.

So that everyone would see that in truth he did have a father of such high significance he wanted to ride his father’s chariot across the skies. He thought that in doing so it would prove his own importance and significance.

Helios is Fearful

When Phaethon told Helios what he wanted granted he was full of fear and tried to dissuade his son from this.  He pointed out that even the mighty Zeus, who was the King of the Gods, would not attempt such a feat as the horses breathed fire and were wild and the chariot glowed red hot.  It needed someone of great strength, skill and experience to control the chariot on its journey across the sky.

Phaethon was not put off and insisted his father fulfill his wish as he had promised.  Reluctantly Helios gave in and Phaethon took the reins of the chariot.

Phaethon Loses Control of the Chariot

The fiery, wild horses knowing there was a lesser charioteer than their master, Helios, charged across the sky.  The chariot glowed ret hot and spewed flames and the young and inexperienced boy could not master the powerful horses.

Out of control the horses rampaged across the sky bringing death and destruction to the earth and its inhabitants below.   They flew so high that the earth was bereft of light and grew cold, before turning and diving so close to the earth that cities were scorched and forests set ablaze and turned to ash.

Zeus Acts

At last seeing the danger Zeus decided to intervene.  He threw a thunderbolt at Phaethon killing him.  His body plummeted from the sky falling into the River Erianus.   There his sisters found his body and were transformed by grief and mourning into trees and their tears became amber.

Helios Blames Zeus

Full of grief and guilt for his weakness in giving into his son, Helios blamed Zeus and refused to drive his chariot across the sky for many days. But Zeus insisted that there had been no other way to save the world.  The other gods begged Helios to take to his chariot again as the earth needed light and warmth.  Eventually Helios agreed and light and warmth in proper measure were restored to the earth.

Boy Racers

Today one only has to think of those “boy racers” who drive their father’s powerful cars too fast in search of respect and admiration from their friends only to lose control and meet disaster.  No doubt their father’s, like Helios the Sun god, would rue their own weakness for the rest of their days.

References and Attributions
Phaethon, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Theoi Project
Image - File:Phaeton-engraving.jpg From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository -An engraving  The fall of Phaëton by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) - Public Domain

Greek Myths: Pygmalion Falls In Love

In Greek mythology Pygmalion was a wonderfully gifted sculptor who created a marvelous statue of a beautiful woman. The statue was so flawless and lifelike he becomes obsessed with his own sculpture falling in love with it.

L’Origine de la sculpture ou Pygmalion priant Vénus d’animer sa statue – Painting by Jean-Baptiste Regnault} – Public Domain

Metamorphoses, by Ovid

The myth was passed to us by Ovid, a Roman poet who included it in a long poem called Metamorphoses. This poem had 12,000 lines of hexameter verse in fifteen books. Its narrative tells of the creation of the world up to the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus, making it of great value to the modern scholar.

Within this long poem are many mythical and legendary stories. A key theme though out is transformation which can be great or small but significant in effect. This transformation often takes place through the intervention of the gods.

It may be a reward for obedience and devotion to the gods or punishment for being unfaithful and disobedient. Passion is a theme that is central through out the work.

Pygmalion

Pygmalion lived on the island of Cyprus where the goddess Aphrodite was widely revered and he was devoted to her.  Not everyone shared this devotion. The daughters of Propoetus of Amathus, who were known as known as the Propoetides, did not worship Aphrodite or pay her due respect.

As a punishment Aphrodite filled them with an immoral passion causing them to act as wanton prostitutes. Pygmalion abhorred their behaviour and grew to loathe them so much that he swore never to marry.  For many years he separated himself from such behaviour concentrating on his work.

Pygmalion Creates a Beautiful Statue

Pygmalion and Galatea – Public Domain

During this time of isolation he created a statue of a woman of the most perfect beauty that was amazingly lifelike.   He saw in the statue everything he believed a woman should be and all that the Propoetides were not.  Indeed the statue was so flawless and its beauty surpassed that of any living woman.  As he gazed upon it in admiration of his own skill and its beauty he fell in love with it.

Pygmalion became obsessed, touching and caressing it, as if it was a real woman.  He put fine necklaces around its neck and dressed it in beautiful clothes and came to believe that it was indeed a real woman.  He would give it beautiful presents such as he thought a real woman would take pleasure in.   He would recline it on a couch and with it dressed in fine clothes and jewelery he began to believe it was his wife.

Aphrodite Grants his Heart’s Desire

In Pygmalion’s time the festival of Aphrodite was an important event on Cyprus.  Being dedicated to her he went to her alter and performed sacred rites to honour her.   In his prayers he asked Aphrodite for a wife similar to his statue, but what he really desired more than anything was for the statue to be his wife, but did not say so as he thought it inappropriate.

Aphrodite was pleased with his dedication to her and reading his mind new his heart’s desire.   She caused the alter flames to flare three times as a sign of her approval.

On his return home Pygmalion immediately went to the statue where he had left it reclining on the couch, dressed in finery.  He began to kiss and caress it…  To his utter amazement the statue’s face felt soft and warm.  To his surprise and delight the statue began responding to his kisses and caresses returning them.

Pygmalion gets Married

Overjoyed, he realised Aphrodite had caused the statue to come to life. Pygmalion thanked Aphrodite with all his heart and she looked down and blessed the couple.   From their marriage came a son named Paphos who gave his name to the city on Cyprus where the cult of Aphrodite was centred.  In later versions of the myth his wife is named as Galatea.

Divine Intervention

The punishment of the Propoetides by Aphrodite who filled them with an immoral passion, Pygmalion’s devotion and dedication to the goddess and passion for his statue, Aphrodite’s transformation of the statue into a real woman are examples of how the gods may intervene in the lives of humans.

References and Attributions

Image – L’Origine de la sculpture ou Pygmalion priant Vénus d’animer sa statue by Jean-Baptiste Regnault – Public Domain From Wikimeadia Commons

Image – Pygmalion and Galatea by Earnest Normand – Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons

Pygmalion in Greek Mythology

Pygmalion (mythology) – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia