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The Ancient Greek Creation Myth

Updated on May 2, 2012
Parthenon in Greece and blue sky
Parthenon in Greece and blue sky | Source

The ancient Greek creation myth telling how the pantheon came about is, perhaps, a metaphor for what was happening in the real World at that time.

Greek and Roman myths are very interesting to read. Many teachers now use them as a teaching material and they are very useful and helpful, especially in realizing where classical allusions originate. Greek myths also give hints about early man’s development.

No one really knows the exact date it began but experts think the ancient Greek religion dates from the second millennium B.C. When ancient Aryan people invaded from the East and met the Aegeans and the Minoans (onCrete). The three cultures meshed together created what we know as the Greek culture and the resulting Minoan-Mycenaean civilization flourished between 1600 BC and 1400BC. Before the invasions, communities were scattered, the invading Aryans carried beliefs from outlying districts across the area. Initially, the religion was a confused melee but order eventually emerged, and the Greek pantheon includes gods from all Greek Bronze Age cultures.

The marriage of Zeus, sky god of the conquerors, and Hera, a fertility goddess of the conquered, is an example of the union between cultures, the conflict between the two perhaps metaphor for the difficulties between conquered and conqueror.The Ancient Greek creation Myth telling how the pantheon came about is, perhaps, a metaphor for what was happening in the real World at that time.

In the beginning, there was Chaos, until Erebus and night came from the void. Erebus is the unknowable place where death lives. Everything else was silent, endless, darkness until love was born bringing the beginning of order. From love came light and day. Once there was light and day, Gaea, the Earth appeared. Many experts think Gaea probably began as a Neolithic earth mother goddess, worshipped before the Indo-European invasion that would lead to the Ancient Greek civilization. Erebus and night made ether, heavenly light, and Day, earthly light. Night alone made the things that come to man out of darkness, doom, fate, death, sleep, dreams, and Nemesis. Gaea birthed Uranus, the sky god. Uranus was Gaea’s mate because sky covers the Earth completely. Gaea and Uranus’s union resulted in the three Cyclopes, three Hacontcheires and the twelve Titans.

Uranus hated Hacontcheires and pushed them into the hidden places of the earth. Gaea furious at this imprisonment of her children plotted to overthrow Uranus. She made a flint sickle and encouraged her children attack Uranus. They were all afraid, save the youngest titan, Cronus. Cronus castrated his father with the sickle whilst he slept. There are conflicting stories of what happened to Uranus He either died, withdrew from the earth, or exiled himself to Italy. On departing, Uranus promised that Cronus and Titans would suffer. From Uranus’s spilt blood, the Giants, the Ash tree nymphs, and the Erinnyes emerged. Aphrodite was born from the sea foam where Uranus’s genitals hit the ocean.

Cronus took the throne of the gods, imprisoning the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires in Tartarus, which was deep in the Earth, even below Hades, and was the ultimate prison. Cronus married his sister Rhea and ruled the Titans, who had many children during his rule. Both Gaea and Uranus had prophesied that a son would overthrow Cronus, so Cronus swallowed each of his own children as they were born. Rhea, naturally, objected to this and, when the time came for her sixth child to be born, hid from Cronus and left the child with the nymphs. She then wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave to Cronus, who, thinking that it was the baby, swallowed it.

That child was Zeus, who grew up into a handsome young man on Crete. Zeus consulted Metis, Titaness of the fourth day and the planet Mercury, who governed all wisdom all knowledge, on how to overcome Cronus. She made an emetic drink for Cronus to recover Zeus’s five siblings.

Rhea prevailed on Cronus to accept his son and, eventually, Cronus made Zeus his cupbearer on Mount Olympus. Being Cronus’s cupbearer allowed Zeus to slip Cronus the emetic drink. The other five children emerged unharmed from Cronus, and were so grateful to Zeus that they made him their leader. Cronus and the Titans, excepting Prometheus, Epimetheus and Oceanus, led by Atlas fought to retain power. For some time, it looked as though the young gods would lose, but Zeus went to Tartarus and freed the Cyclopes and Hecatonchieres and they along with Prometheus joined Zeus. The Cyclopes gave Zeus lightening bolts to use as weapons. Zeus then feigned a retreat, drawing the Titans into an ambush, where the Hecatonchieres were waiting to shower them furiously with boulders, the Titans thinking the mountains were falling on them and ran, giving Zeus the victory.

Victory did not bring peace, however, Gaea, mother of the Titans was angry when Zeus imprisoned her children. She gave birth to her final child, Typhoeus, a monster so frightening that most gods fled. Zeus was able to kill Typhoeus with lightening bolts. Typhoeus is buried under Mount Etna inSicily.

The final challenge to The Olympians and Zeus’s rule came much later, when the Giants attempted to invade Mount Olympus by piling mountains up, to try to reach the summit. The Olympians, with Heracles’ help defeated the giants. Zeus then imprisoned the giants in Tartarus.

The Greek creation myth shows how the Ancient Greeks explained both natural phenomenon and the changing realities of their world. The story of how scattered and isolated Bronze Age settlements became the classical civilization still remembered, studied, and alluded to today.


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