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Primordial Deities in Greek Mythology

Updated on May 24, 2015

Primordial deities

Primordial deities in Greek mythology are considered the first entities or beings that came into existence. These deities are a group of gods from which all others descend. They most notably include Uranus (Father Sky) and Gaia (Mother Earth), who preceded the Titans, who themselves preceded the Olympians.

Aether or Aether

Aether or Aether is one of the first-born elementals. He is the personification of the upper air. and embodies the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air breathed by mortals.

Children of Aether:

  • Gaea (earth)
  • Thalassa (sea)
  • Uranus(heavens)

The Theogony of Hesiod states that Aether (Brightness), was the son of Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night), and the brother of Hemera (Day).

The Roman mythographer Hyginus, says Aether was the son of Chaos and Caligo (Darkness).

Aristophanes states that Aether was the son of Erebus.

However, Damascius says that Aether, Erebus and Chaos were siblings, and the offspring of Chronos (Father Time).

According to Epiphanius, the world began as a cosmic egg, encircled by Time and Inevitability (most likely Chronos and Anne) in serpent fashion. Together they constricted the egg, squeezing its matter with great force, until the world divided into two hemispheres. After that, the atoms sorted themselves out. The lighter and finer ones floated above and became the Bright Air (Aether and/or Uranus) and the rarefied Wind (Chaos), while the heavier and dirtier atoms sank and became the Earth (Gaia) and the Ocean (Pontus and/or Oceanus).

Aether Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Αιθηρ
Aithêr
Aether, Ether
Bright Upper Air
Ακμων
Akmôn
Acmon
Zenith (akmê) Untiring (akmês)

Ananke

Ananke (also spelled Anangke, Anance, or Anagke) is the personification of destiny, necessity and fate, depicted as holding a spindle. Ananke and Chronos mark the beginning of the cosmos. She was seen as the most powerful dictator of all fate and circumstance which meant that mortals, as well as the Gods, respected her and paid homage. Considered as the mother of the Fates she is the only one to have control over their decisions (except, according to some sources, also Zeus).

Children of Ananke:

  • Clotho (spinner)
  • Lachesis (allotter)
  • Atropos (unturnable)

According to the ancient Greek traveler Pausanias, there was a temple in ancient Corinth where the goddesses Ananke and Bia (meaning violence or violent haste) were worshiped together in the same shrine. Her Roman counterpart was Necessitas ("necessity")

"Ananke" is derived from the common Ancient Greek noun meaning force, constraint or necessity. The common noun itself is of uncertain etymology. Homer uses the word meaning necessity, ("ιt is necessary to fight") or force ("by force").In Ancient Greek literature the word is also used meaning "fate" or "destiny" ("fate by the daemons or by the gods"), and by extension "compulsion or torture by a superior. The word is often personified in poetry, as Simonides does: "Even the gods don’t fight against ananke".

In the philosophical sense it means "necessity," "logical necessity,” or "laws of nature."

Ananke Alternate Names & Spellings

(click column header to sort results)
Greek Name  
Transliteration  
Latin Spelling  
Translation  
Αναγκαιη
Anankaiê
Anacaea
Necessity (Ion. sp)
Αδραστεια
Adrasteia
Adrasteia
Inescapable
Αδρηστεια
Adrêsteia
Adrasteia
(Ion. sp.)
Τεκμωρ
Tekmôr
Tecmor
Purpose, End, Goal

Chaos

According to Greek mythology Chaos was the origin of everything and the first thing that ever existed. It was the primordial void, the source out of which everything was created, including the universe and the gods. Chaos refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos, more specifically the initial "gap" created by the original separation of heaven and earth. For the Roman poet Ovid, Chaos was an unformed mass, where all the elements were jumbled up together in a "shapeless heap". According to Hesiod, Chaos was also a place, much like Tartarus and the Heavens, beyond which the Titans lived.

Children of Choas:

  • Gaea (earth)
  • Tartarus (underworld)
  • Eros (love)
  • Erebus (darkness)
  • Nyx (night).

Nevertheless, the term chaos has been adopted in religious studies as referring to the primordial state before creation, strictly combining two separate notions of primordial waters or a primordial darkness from which a new order emerges and a primordial state as a merging of opposites, such as heaven and earth, which must be separated by a creator deity in an act of cosmogony. In both cases, chaos referring to a notion of a primordial state contains the cosmos in potentia but needs to be formed by a demiurge before the world can begin its existence.

This model of a primordial state of matter has been opposed by the Church Fathers from the 2nd century, who posited a creation ex nihilo by an omnipotent God. In modern biblical studies, the term chaos is commonly used in the context of the Torah and their cognate narratives in Ancient Near Eastern mythology more generally. Parallels between the Hebrew Genesis and the Babylonian Enuma Elish were established by H. Gunkel in 1910.

Besides Genesis, other books of the Old Testament, especially a number of Psalms, some passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Book of Job are relevant. Use of chaos in the derived sense of "complete disorder or confusion" first appears in Elizabethan Early Modern English, originally implying satirical exaggeration.

Passages in Hesiod's Theogony suggest that Chaos was located below Earth but above Tartarus. Primal Chaos was sometimes said to be the true foundation of reality, particularly by philosophers such as Heraclitus.

Ovid (1st century BC), in his Metamorphoses, described Chaos as "a rude and undeveloped mass that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap."

Chaos Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Χαος Χαεος
Khaos, Khaeos
Chaos
Gap, Chasm (khaos)
Αηρ
Aêr
Aer
Air (aêr)

Chronos

Chronos, ("time", also transliterated as Khronos or Latinized as Chronus and not to be confused with Cronus, the Titan father of Zeus.) is the personification of Time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature.

Chronos was imagined as a god, serpentine shape in form, with three heads—those of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke, circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky.

Children of Chronos and Ananke:

  • Choas
  • Aither
  • Phanes

He was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, due to the similarity in name, the Titan Cronus already in antiquity, the identification becoming more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe.

He was depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning the Zodiac Wheel. Chronos, however, might also be contrasted with the deity Aion as Eternal Time. Chronos is usually portrayed through an old, wise man with a long, grey beard, similar to Father Time. Some of the current English words whose etymological root is khronos/chronos include chronology, chronometer, chronic, anachronism, and chronicle.

In the Orphic cosmogony, the unaging Chronos produced Aether and Chaos, and made a silvery egg in the divine Aether. It produced the hermaphroditic god Phanes, who gave birth to the first generation of gods and is the ultimate creator of the cosmos.

Pherecydes of Syros in his lost Heptamychos (the seven recesses), around 6th century BC, claimed that there were three eternal principles: Chronos, Zas (Zeus) and Chthonie (the chthonic). The semen of Chronos was placed in the recesses and produced the first generation of gods.

Chronos Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Χρονος
Khronos
Chronus
Time (khronos)
Κρονος
Kronos
Cronus
Portion of Time
Αιων
Aiôn
Aeon
Age, Eternity (aiôn)
Πορος
Poros
Porus
Contrivance, Passage

Erebus

Erebus, also Erebos ("deep darkness, shadow") was one of the primordial deities in Greek mythology, born out of the primeval void, Chaos. It was the personification of the deep darkness and shadows. Erebus was the brother of Gaea(earth), Tartarus (underworld), Eros (love), and Nyx (night).

Children from Erebus and Nyx

  • Aether
  • Hemera (day)
  • Hypnos (sleep)
  • Geras (old age)
  • Thanatos (death)

The word Erebus was also used to indicate a region of the Underworld where the dead would go immediately after dying, and is sometimes used interchangeably with Tartarus.

Hesiod's Theogony identifies him as one of the first five beings in existence, born ofChaos. Erebus features little in Greek mythological tradition and literature, but is said to have fathered several other deities with Nyx; depending on the source of the mythology, this union includes Aether, Hemera, the Hesperides, Hypnos, the Moirai, Geras, Styx, Charon, and Thanatos.

The perceived meaning of Erebus is "darkness"; the first recorded instance of it was "place of darkness between earth and Hades". Semitic forms such as the Hebrew meanings, 'sunset, evening', are sometimes cited as a source. However, an Indo-European origin for the name Erebus itself is possible from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) "darkness".

"From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebus." Hesiod,Theogony (120–125)

Erebus Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Ερεβος
Erebos
Erebus
Darkness (erebos)
Σκοτος
Skotos
Scotus
Darkness (skotos)

Eros

Eros ("Desire") was the Greek god of love and attraction. His Roman counterpart was Cupid. Some myths make him a primordial god, while in other myths; he is the son of Aphrodite.

Children of Eros:

  • THE BIRDS (by Khaos) (Aristophanes Birds 685)

Eros appears in ancient Greek sources under several different guises. In the earliest sources (the cosmogonies), he is one of the primordial gods involved in the coming into being of the cosmos. But in later sources, Eros is represented as the son of Aphrodite, whose mischievous interventions in the affairs of gods and mortals cause bonds of love to form, often illicitly. Ultimately, in the later satirical poets, he is represented as a blindfolded child, the precursor to the chubby Renaissance Cupid – whereas in early Greek poetry and art, Eros was depicted as an adult male who embodies sexual power, and a profound artist.

A cult of Eros existed in pre-classical Greece, but it was much less important than that of Aphrodite. However, in late antiquity, Eros was worshiped by a fertility cult in Thespiae. In Athens, he shared a very popular cult with Aphrodite, and the fourth day of every month was sacred to him

According to Hesiod (c. 700 BC), one of the most ancient of all Greek sources, Eros was the fourth god to come into existence, coming after Chaos, Gaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Abyss or the Underworld). Homer does not mention Eros. However, Parmenides (c. 400 BC), one of the pre-socratic philosophers, makes Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence.

The Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries featured Eros as a very original god, but not quite primordial, since he was the child of Night (Nyx). Aristophanes (c. 400 BC), influenced by Orphism, relates the birth of Eros and then of the entire human race:

At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.

Eros Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Ερος
Eros
Amor
Sexual Desire (eros)
Source

The Golden Asse

The story of Eros and Psyche has a longstanding tradition as a folktale of the ancient Greco-Roman world long before it was committed to literature in Apuleius' Latin novel, The Golden Asse. The novel itself is written in a picaresque Roman style, yet Psyche retains her Greek name. Eros and Aphrodite are called by their Latin names (Cupid and Venus), and Cupid is depicted as a young adult, rather than a child.

The story tells of the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of mortal princess Psyche, as men were leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so she commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. But instead, Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit from Psyche's jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros leaves his wife, and Psyche wanders the Earth, looking for her lost love. Eventually she approaches Aphrodite and asks for her help. Aphrodite imposes a series of difficult tasks on Psyche, which she is able to achieve by means of supernatural assistance.

After successfully completing these tasks, Aphrodite relents and Psyche becomes immortal to live alongside her husband Eros. Together they had a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone (meaning physical pleasure, bliss).

In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (psyche was also the Ancient Greek word for 'butterfly'). The Greek word psyche literally means "soul, spirit, breath, life or animating force".

Gaia

In Greek mythology, Gaia, (gay orgah-yə; "land" or "earth") also spelled Gaea, was the personification of the Earth. Gaia was the great mother of all: the primal Greek Mother Goddess; creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the Universe; the heavenly gods, the Titans, and the Giants were born to her. The gods reigning over their classical pantheon were born from her union with Uranus (the sky), while the sea-gods were born from her union with Pontus (the sea). Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra. Gaia also made Aristaeus immortal. Oaths sworn in the name of Gaia, in ancient Greece, were considered the most binding of all.

The Greek word for Gaia, meaning Earth,is a word of uncertain origin. R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin. In Mycenean Greek Ma-ka (trans. asMa-ga, "Mother Gaia") also contains the root ga-.

Hesiod's Theogony tells how, after Chaos, "wide-bosomed" Gaia (Earth) arose to be the everlasting seat of the immortals who possess Olympus above, and the depths of Tartarus below. He then tells that Gaia brought forth her equal Uranus (Heaven, Sky) to "cover her on every side" and to be the abode of the gods. Gaia also bore the hills (ourea), and Pontus (Sea), "without sweet union of love" (i.e., with no father). Afterwards with Uranus, she gave birth to the Titans, as Hesiod tells it:

She lay with Heaven and bore deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themisand Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos [Cronus] the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.

According to Hesiod, Gaia conceived further offspring with Uranus, first the giant one-eyed Cyclopes: Brontes ("Thunder"), Steropes ("Lightning") and Arges ("Bright"); then the Hecatonchires: Cottus, Briareos and Gyges, each with a hundred arms and fifty heads. As each of the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were born, Uranus hid them in a secret place within Gaia, causing her great pain. So Gaia devised a plan. She created a grey flint sickle. And Cronus used the sickle to castrate his father Uranus as he approached Gaia to have intercourse with her. From Uranus' spilled blood, Gaia produced the Erinyes, the Giants and the Meliae (ash-tree nymphs). From the testicles of Uranus in the sea came forth Aphrodite. By her son Pontus, Gaia bore the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.

Because Cronus had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed each of the children born to him by his Titan sister Rhea. But when Rhea was pregnant with her youngest child, Zeus, she sought help from Gaia and Uranus. When Zeus was born, Rhea gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes in his place, which Cronus swallowed, and Gaia took the child into her care. Zeus defeated the Titans with the help of Gaia's advice. But afterwards, Gaia, in union with Tartarus, bore the youngest of her sons Typhon, who would be the last challenge to the authority of Zeus.

According to Hyginus, Earth (Gaia), along with Heaven and Sea were the children of Aether and Day (Hemera). According to Apollodorus, Gaia and Tartarus were the parents of Echidna.

Zeus hid Elara, one of his lovers, from Hera by stowing her under the earth. His son by Elara, the giant Tityos, is therefore sometimes saidto be a son of Gaia, the earth goddess.

Gaia is believed by some sourcesto be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi. Depending on the source, Gaia passed her powers on to Poseidon, Apollo, or Themis. Apollo is best known as the oracle power behind Delphi, long established by the time of Homer, having killed Gaia's child Python there and usurped the chthonic power.

In classical art Gaia was represented in one of two ways. In Athenian vase painting she was shown as a matronly woman only half risen from the earth, often in the act of handing the baby Erichthonius (a future king of Athens) to Athena to foster. In mosaic representations, she appears as a woman reclining upon the earth surrounded by a host of Carpi, infant gods of the fruits of the earth.

Gaia Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Γαια Γαιη Γη
Gaia, Gaiê, Gê
Gaea, Terra, Tellus
Earth

Hemera

Hemera (/ˈhɛmərə/; Ancient Greek: Ἡμέρα [hɛːméra] "day") was the personification of day. She is the goddess of the daytime and, according to Hesiod, the daughter of Erebus and Nyx (the goddess of night) and the sister-wife of Aither (Light). Hemera is remarked upon in Cicero's De Natura Deorum, where it is logically determined that Dies (Hemera) must be a god, if Uranus is a god. Bacchylides, the poet, states that Nyx and Chronos are her parents, but Hyginusin his preface to the Fabulae mentions Chaos as the mother/father and Nyx as her sister.

Children of Hemera:

  • Uranus
  • Gaia
  • Thalassa (the primordial sea goddess)

She was the female counterpart of her brother and consort, Aether (Light), but neither of them figured actively in myth or cult.

Pausanias seems to confuse her with Eos when saying that she carried Cephalus away. Pausanias makes this identification with Eos upon looking at the tiling of the royal portico in Athens, where the myth of Eos and Kephalos is illustrated. He makes this identification again at Amyklai and at Olympia, upon looking at statues and illustrations where Eos (Hemera) is present.

In the evening Hemera's mother Nyx drew a veil of darkness between the shining atmosphere of the aither and the lower air of earth (aer), bringing night to man. With each morn Hemera dispersed night's mists, bathing the earth again in the shining light of heaven (aither). In the ancient cosmogonies night and day were substances distinct and quite independent from the sun.

She was closely identified with Hera, the queen of heaven, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. Hesiod appears to regard her as more of a divine substance rather than anthropomorphic goddess. She was largely irrelevant in mythology, with her role being wholly subsumed by the goddess Eos.

Hemera Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Ἡμερα
Hêmera
Hemera, Dies
Day (hêmera)
Ἡμερη
Hêmerê
Dies
Day (Ionian spelling)
Αμερα
Amera
Dies
Day (Doric spelling)
Αμαρα
Amara
Dies
Day (Locrian spelling)

Nyx

Nyx (/nɪks/; Greek: Νύξ, "Night") is the Greek goddess (or personification) of the night. A shadowy figure, Nyx stood at or near the beginning of creation. Her appearances are sparse in surviving mythology, but reveal her as a figure of such exceptional power and beauty, that she is feared by Zeus himself. She is found in the shadows of the world and only ever seen in glimpses.

Children of Nyx:

  • Hypnos (Sleep)
  • Thanatos (Death)
  • Nemesis(retribution)
  • Geras (old age)
  • Eris (strife)
  • Charon (the boatman who brought the souls of the dead to the gates of the underworld)


In Hesiod's Theogony, Nyx is born of Chaos. With Erebus (Darkness), Nyx gives birth to Aether (Brightness) and Hemera (Day). Later, on her own, Nyx gives birth to Moros (Doom, Destiny), Ker (Fate, Destruction, Death), Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), theOneiroi (Dreams), Momus (Blame), Oizys (Woe, Pain, Distress), the Hesperides (Evening, Sunset), the Moirai (Fates), the Keres,Nemesis (Indignation, Retribution), Apate (Deceit), Philotes (Friendship, Love), Geras (Old Age), and Eris (Strife).

In his description of Tartarus, Hesiod locates there the home of Nyx, and the homes of her children Hypnos and Thanatos. Hesiod says further that Hemera (Day), who is Nyx's daughter, left Tartarus just as Nyx entered it; continuing cyclically, when Hemera returned, Nyx left. This mirrors the portrayal of Ratri (night) in the Rigveda, where she works in close cooperation but also tension with her sister Ushas (dawn). According to Hesiod, Nyx's home was in Tartarus, along with her children Hypnos and Thanatos.

At Iliad 14.249–61, Hypnos, the minor deity of sleep, reminds Hera of an old favor after she asks him to put Zeus to sleep. He had once before put Zeus to sleep at the bidding of Hera, allowing her to cause Heracles (who was returning by sea from Laomedon's Troy) great misfortune. Zeus was furious and would have smitten Hypnos into the sea if he had not fled to Nyx, his mother, in fear. Homer goes on to say that Zeus, fearing to anger Nyx, held his fury at bay and in this way Hypnos escaped the wrath of Zeus by appealing to his powerful mother. He disturbed Zeus only a few times after that always fearing Zeus and running back to his mother, Nyx, who would have confronted Zeus with a maternal fury.

Nyx took on an even more important role in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus. In them, Nyx, rather than Chaos, is the first principle from which all creation emerges. Nyx occupies a cave or adyton, in which she gives oracles. Cronus – who is chained within, asleep and drunk on honey – dreams and prophesies. Outside the cave, Adrasteia clashes cymbals and beats upon her tympanon, moving the entire universe in an ecstatic dance to the rhythm of Nyx's chanting. Phanes – the strange, monstrous, hermaphrodite Orphic demiurge – was the child or father of Nyx. Nyx is also the first principle in the opening chorus of Aristophanes' The Birds, which may be Orphic in inspiration. Here she is also the mother of Eros. The theme of Nyx's cave or mansion, beyond the ocean (as in Hesiod) or somewhere at the edge of the cosmos (as in later Orphism) may be echoed in the philosophical poem of Parmenides. The classical scholar Walter Burkert has speculated that the house of the goddess to which the philosopher is transported is the palace of Nyx; this hypothesis, however, must remain tentative.

In Greece, Nyx was only rarely the focus of cults. According to Pausanias, she had an oracle on the acropolis at Megara. More often, Nyx lurked in the background of other cults. Thus there was a statue called "Nyx" in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The Spartans had a cult of Sleep and Death, conceived of as twins. Cult titles composed of compounds of nyx- are attested for several deities, most notably Dionysus Nyktelios "nocturnal" and Aphrodite Philopannyx "who loves the whole night".

Nyx Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Νυξ
Nyx
Nox
Night (nyx, nyktos)

Phanes

Phanes (Ancient Greek: Φάνης, from φαίνω,phainō, "I bring to light"), or Protogonos (Greek:Πρωτογόνος, "First-born"), was the mystic primeval god of procreation and the generation of new life, who was introduced into Greek mythology by the Orphic tradition; other names for this Classical Greek Orphic concept included Ericapaeus (Ἠρικαπαῖος or Ἠρικεπαῖος "power") and Metis ("thought"). In these myths Phanes is often equated with Eros and Mithras and has been depicted as a deity emerging from a cosmic egg, entwined with a serpent. He had a helmet and had broad, golden wings.

Many threads of earlier myths are apparent in the new tradition. Phanes was believed to have been hatched from the World-Egg of Chronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity) or Nyx in the black bird form and wind. His older wife Nyx (Night) called him Protogenus. As she created nighttime, he created daytime. He also created the method of creation by mingling. He was made the ruler of the deities and passed the sceptre to Nyx. From him it was first seized by Kronos (Time), and then by Zeus, the ultimate ruler of the cosmos. Some say Zeus devoured Phanes in order to assume his primal cosmic power and redistribute it amongst a new generation of gods--the Olympians which he sired.

It is also believed that by his centuries-old battle with Chaos, the creation of birds took place as the result.

The "Protogonos Theogony" is known through the commentary in the Derveni papyrus and references in Empedocles and Pindar.

The Orphics equated Phanes with the Elder Eros (Sexual Desire) of Hesiod'sTheogony, who emerged at the beginning of time alongside Khaos (Air) and Gaia(Earth). Phanes also incorporated aspects of other primordial beings described by various ancient writers including Thesis, Phusis, Ophion, Khronos andAnanke. Phanes also appears in myth in the guise of Metis (i.e. Thetis, Thesis, creation), the goddess devoured by Zeus, and Tethys, the nurse of all. However these two divinities in the majority of Greek literature remain far-removed from the concept of creator-gods.

Phanes was portrayed as a beautiful golden-winged hermaphroditic deity wrapped in a serpent's coils. The poets describe him as an incorporeal being invisible even through the eyes of the gods. His name means "bring to light" or "make appear" from the Greek verbs phanaô and phainô.

Phanes Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Φανης
Phanês
Phanes
Bring to Light

Tartarus

Tartarus (/ˈtɑrtərəs/, tar-tə-rəs; Greek: Τάρταρος Tartaros), is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. Tartarus was the god of the great stormy Tartarean pit that lay beneath the earth. The pit was imagined as the inverse of the dome of the sky, lying beneath the flat earth. The sky-dome and Tartarean pit together enclosed the entire cosmos in an egg-shaped or spherical shell. As a place, it was far below than where Hades resided and it was used as the most horrible prison. Some accounts say that the distance between Tartarus and Hades was the same as between the earth and the heaven. Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall nine days before it reached the earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from earth to Tartarus. Although the kingdom of Hades was the place of the dead, Tartarus was where ferocious monsters and horrible criminals were banished, or where the gods imprisoned their rivals after a war. The three judges of the Underworld, Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos, decided who would go to the realm of Hades and who would be banished to Tartarus.

Children of Tartarus:

  • Thphoeus

In the Greek poet Hesiod's Theogony, c. 700 BC, Tartarus was the third of the primordial deities, following after Chaos and Gaia (Earth), and preceding Eros.

While, according to Greek mythology, the realm of Hades is the place of the dead, Tartarus also has a number of inhabitants. When Cronus came to power as the King of the Titans, he imprisoned the one-eyed Cyclopes and the hundred-armed Hecatonchires in Tartarus and set the monster Campe as its guard. Zeus killed Campe and released the imprisoned giants to aid in his conflict with the Titans. The gods of Olympus eventually triumphed. Cronus and many of the other Titans were banished to Tartarus, though Prometheus, Epimetheus, Metis and most of the female Titans were spared (according to Pindar, Cronus somehow later earned Zeus' forgiveness and was released from Tartarus to become ruler of Elysium). Another Titan, Atlas, was sentenced to hold the sky on his shoulders to prevent it from resuming its primordial embrace with the Earth. Other gods could be sentenced to Tartarus as well. Apollo is a prime example, although Zeus freed him. The Hecatonchires became guards of Tartarus' prisoners. Later, when Zeus overcame the monster Typhon, the offspring of Tartarus and Gaia, he threw him into "wide Tartarus".

Originally, Tartarus was used only to confine dangers to the gods of Olympus. In later mythologies, Tartarus became the place where the punishment fits the crime.

According to Plato (c. 427 BC), Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos were the judges of the dead and chose who went to Tartarus. Tartarus is the place where souls were judged after death and where the wicked received divine punishment. Rhadamanthus judged Asian souls, Aeacus judged European souls and Minos was the deciding vote and judge of the Greek.

Plato also proposes the concept that sinners were cast under the ground to be punished in accordance with their sins in the Myth of Er. Cronus, the ruler of the Titans, was thrown down into the pits of Tartarus by his children.

There were a number of entrances to Tartarus in Greek mythology. One was in Aornum.

In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to prevent sinners from escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine, a substance akin to diamond – so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus, and many other sinners. Still more sinners are contained inside Tartarus, with punishments similar to those of Greek myth.

Tartarus Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Ταρταρος
Tartaros
Tartarus
--

Zeus

Thalassa

Thalassa (/θəˈlæsə/;Greek: Θάλασσα, "sea") is a sea goddess, daughter of Aether and Hemera. Coupling with her male counterpart Pontos, she spawned the tribes of fish. According to a myth recounted by Hesiod, she gave birth to Aphrodite when Cronus cut the genitalia of Uranus that subsequently fell into the sea. Thalassa is a personification of the sea itself; as told in Aesop's Fables she appears as a woman rising up from the depths of the sea. Thalassa was depicted in Roman-era mosaics as a woman half submerged in the sea, with crab-claw horns, clothed in bands of seaweed, and holding a ship's oar. Her counterpart is considered to be Amphitrite who is the wife of Poseidon. Her other counterpart can be considered to be the Greek titan Tethys.

Children of Thalassa and Pontus:

  • nine Telchines (original inhabitants of the island of Rhodes, and were known in Crete and Cyprus)
  • Halia

In 2011, Swoon created a site-specific installation depicting the goddess in the atrium of the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Poseidon and Amphitrite were the anthropomorphic gods equivalent to Pontos and Thalassa. In late classical times, the two were also confounded with Okeanos and Tethys.

Thalassa Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Θαλασσα
Thalassa
Thalassa, Mare
Sea (thalassa)
Θαλασση
Thalassê
Thalassa
(Ionian spelling)
Θαλαττη
Thalattê
Thalatta
(Attic spelling)

Uranus

Uranus (/ˈjʊərənəs/ or /jʊˈreɪnəs/;Ancient Greek Οὐρανός, Ouranos [oːranós] meaning "sky" or "heaven") was the god personifying the sky. His equivalent in Roman mythology was Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Gaia, alone, conceived Uranus but other sources cite Aether as his father. Uranus and Gaia were the parents of the first generation of Titans, and the ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult addressed directly to Uranus survived into Classical times,and Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Elemental Earth, Sky and Styx might be joined, however, in a solemn invocation in Homeric epic.

In Hesiod's Theogony, Uranus is the offspring of Gaia, the earth goddess. Alcman and Callimachus elaborate that Uranus was fathered by Aether, the god of heavenly light and the upper air. Under the influence of the philosophers, Cicero, in De Natura Deorum ("Concerning the Nature of the Gods"), claims that he was the offspring of the ancient gods Aether and Hemera, Air and Day. According to the Orphic Hymns, Uranus was the son of Nyx, the personification of night.

Children of Uranus and Gaia:

  • The Titans (six sons and six daughters)
  • Hekatonkheires (three one-hundred-handed giants)
  • Cyclopes (one-eyed giants)

In the Olympian creation myth, as Hesiod tells it in theTheogony, Uranus came every night to cover the earth and mate with Gaia, but he hated the children she bore him.

Uranus imprisoned Gaia's youngest children in Tartarus, deep within Earth, where they caused pain to Gaia. She shaped a great flint-bladed sickle and asked her sons to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus, youngest and most ambitious of the Titans, was willing: he ambushed his father and castrated him, casting the severed testicles into the sea.

For this fearful deed, Uranus called his sons Titanes Theoi, or "Straining Gods." From the blood that spilled from Uranus onto the Earth came forth the Giants, the Erinyes (the avenging Furies), the Meliae (the ash-tree nymphs), and, according to some, the Telchines. From the genitals in the sea came forth Aphrodite.

The learned Alexandrian poet Callimachus reported that the bloodied sickle had been buried in the earth at Zancle in Sicily, but the Romanized Greek traveler Pausanias was informed that the sickle had been thrown into the sea from the cape near Bolina, not far from Argyra on the coast of Achaea, whereas the historian Timaeus located the sickle at Corcyra; Corcyrans claimed to be descendants of the wholly legendary Phaeacia visited by Odysseus, and by circa 500 BCE one Greek mythographer, Acusilaus, was claiming that the Phaeacians had sprung from the very blood of Uranus' castration.

After Uranus was deposed, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes in Tartarus. Uranus and Gaia then prophesied that Cronus, in turn, was destined to be overthrown by his own son, and so the Titan attempted to avoid this fate by devouring his young. Zeus, through deception by his mother Rhea, avoided this fate.

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew of only five 'wandering stars' (Greek: πλανήται, planētai): Mercury,Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Following the discovery of a sixth planet in the 18th century, the nameUranus was chosen as the logical addition to the series: for Mars (Ares in Greek) was the son of Jupiter, Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) the son of Saturn, and Saturn (Cronus in Greek) the son of Uranus. What is anomalous is that, while the others take Roman names, Uranus is a name derived from Greek in contrast to the Roman Caelus.

Uranus Alternate Names & Spellings

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Name
Translation
Ουρανος
Ouranos
Uranus, Caelum
Sky, Heaven
Ακμων
Akmôn
Acmon
Anvil
Ακμονιδες
Akmonides
Acmonides
Untiring

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