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Erebus Greek God of Darkness

Updated on August 17, 2016
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Stories from Greek mythology were often used to explain the world in which the Ancient Greeks found themselves. As such, most elements of the world were personified, with a god or goddess associated with the element; most commonly was the fact that every river had a god, a Potamoi, associated with it. Another personified god was Erebus, the god of darkness.

Erebus Comes Forth

Erebus, or Erebos as the god is also referred to, is not a famous god of the Greek pantheon, and is one rarely mentioned in ancient sources, but he was a god who can be considered to be important. Erebus was one of the primordial gods, one of the Protogenoi, or first born deities.

According to Hesiod in the Theogony, at the start of the cosmos came a god called Chaos, Gaia (earth), Tartarus (the underworld) and Eros (procreation). Subsequently other gods were born, normally to Gaia, but from Chaos came two other primordial deities, Nyx (night) and Erebus (darkness).

Erebus in Caves and Crevices

Cave Katafygi Vatsinidi (Kardamyli, Lefktron, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece) - Alfie (Helmut Schütz) CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0,
Cave Katafygi Vatsinidi (Kardamyli, Lefktron, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece) - Alfie (Helmut Schütz) CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0, | Source

Erebus Personification of Darkness

Erebus would become the epitome of darkness, but it was not just the darkness that came with night, though Erebus would accompany his sister, but also the darkness associated with the world’s recesses, the caves, crevices and underworld.

Erebus in the Underworld

Fallen angels in Hell - John Martin (1789–1854) PD-art-100
Fallen angels in Hell - John Martin (1789–1854) PD-art-100 | Source

Wife and Children of Erebus

Sleep and Death, the Children of the Night - Evelyn de Morgan (1883) PD-art-100
Sleep and Death, the Children of the Night - Evelyn de Morgan (1883) PD-art-100 | Source

Offspring of Erebus

As well as being companion to Nyx, Erebus would also be her husband, and the pair of gods would also become parents to a further two primordial deities, Aether (light) and Hemera (day).

Parents and offspring would work side by side, as Erebus and Nyx would bring forth nightfall, Hemera, in the morning, would push past her parents allowing daylight, in the form of Aether, to surround the world.

Aether and Hemera were not the only offspring of Erebus, and the god of darkness was father to other deities and daemons. Amongst the children talked of are Charon (the ferryman), the Moirai (Fates), Hypnos (Sleep), Thanatos (Death) and Geras (Old Age).

Erebus and the Underworld

The offspring of Erebus, and the goddess Nyx to a degree, would remain relatively important figures in later Greek mythology; a period when the Hellenic gods of Mount Olympus came to prominence. The Moirai indeed were mentioned in many later stories. Erebus though faded into the background, and whilst occasionally mentioned by writers in antiquity, writers like Hesiod and Ovid, the god would subsequently only be mentioned in reference to the underworld.

Some writers would tell of Erebus dwelling in a cave or palace in the realm of Hades, whilst others would say that the god of darkness was everywhere in the underworld, making it a dark place.

Erebus Helping to Explain the World

By creating a god of darkness in the form of Erebus, the early Greeks could explain why periods of darkness enveloped the world. The deity, and Aether, could also help to explain why places underground were dark, and yet those on the surface of the earth were light.

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