Who were they and where did they come from?
Well, it all starts with Chaos, which is interesting because it kind of ends up that way too. Then came Gaia and Eros (Love). A bit later Chaos gives birth to Erebus and Nyx (Darkness and Night), who give birth to a bunch of others like Aether and Day.
It goes on like this for a bit, with random elements and habitats being spontaneously born, but the story of the Titans starts with the children of Gaia and Ouranos, with Gaia being the earth and Ouranos (Uranus) being heaven (or the sky) – yes, you’re right, that does sound both stupid and unfeasible. And it doesn’t stop there.
Uranus is actually the child of Gaia, spawned from her somehow, in some magical way everyone neglected to explain.
The accounts of the beginning of times and the players involved are somewhat ambiguous, so there may be some contradiction, or a great deal of contradiction, or just outright confusion. But don’t blame me, these stories come mostly from our old friend and resident goofball Hesiod, who boasts a masters degree in gobble-de-gook.
He is not, however, the singular source, just the principal one, so although we’ll explore a little of the B-sides of the myths we’ll stick to Hesiod as much as possible because he was one of the first to compile these stories.
Before the regular deities took over, the Arcadians believed in a crew of primordial gods they called the Titans. They were giant in stature and possessed of great strength and stamina. In the first batch there were twelve, six guys and six girls, and because they didn’t have any cousins the brothers and sisters paired off with each other.
The guys were Kronos (Saturn) – not to be confused with Chronus (Time) who in another split from tradition is credited in Orphic cosmogony with creating Chaos, which gave rise to the world as we know it. The other Titan dudes were Oceanus (Ocean), Hyperion (Sun), Iapetus (Lapetus), Krios and Koios. Cronus is actually the youngest sibling, I just put him first because he’s top dog.
The Titan chicks were Rhea (Ops), Themis, Tethys, Theia, Phoebe (the moon) and Mnemosyne (Moneta).
Then came the second generation of Titans. The children of Hyperion and Theia were Eos (Dawn), Helios (Sun) and Selene (Moon). Koios and Phoebe spawned two daughters, Leto and Asteria. Oceanus and Tethys had one daughter, Metis. Krios had three offspring with a lesser sea goddess called Eurybia – who was hazily created somewhere along the line by Gaia – their names were Astraeus, Pallas and Perses. Iapetus had four kids by Clymene – sometimes credited as her sister Asia – who was Oceanus’ daughter, called Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas and Menoetius.
Are you still with me? Hope so. This all getting a bit confusing, and these myths have so many variations we could be here all day sorting them out, so I’ll try to stick to the main versions.
Now, with the Titans in place the world enjoyed what is known as the ‘Golden Age’, where the earth bore so much food there was no need to learn how to farm it, there were no laws – because no one did anything wrong – and the people lived to a ripe old age whilst retaining their youthly good looks. All was bounteous and beautiful and everyone was splendidly happy.
So what went wrong? To put it bluntly Kronos and Rhea should never have had kids. As soon as they were capable their offspring, Zeus (Jupiter), Dis (Pluto) and Poseidon (Neptune) set about spoiling everyone’s good time by going to war with their parents. How little things change.
It has been postulated that the paradigm shift in versions of gods and the world they presided over had come about because of the interaction with other cultures, notably the Hittites and Babylonians, and similarities with those religions and the myths of the Vedic and Egyptian traditions may have arisen due to extended trade routes and a resulting mish-mash-mingling of religion and ideas.
So there’s a brief summary of the Titans. Next time we’ll take a look at the war which ended their reign over the Golden Age and ushered in the decline of society and eventual diminishing of the gods’ hold over mankind.
Love and Soup x