Creation of the World
In the begining there was only chaos. Then out of the void appeared Erebus, the unknowable place where death dwells, and Night. All else was empty, silent, endless, darkness. Then somehow Love was born bringing a start of order. From Love came Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, Gaea, the earth appeared.
Then Erebus slept with Night, who gave birth to Ether, the heavenly light, and to Day the earthly light. Then Night alone produced Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, and others that come to man out of darkness.
Meanwhile Gaea alone gave birth to Uranus, the heavens. Uranus became Gaea’s mate covering her on all sides. Together they produced the three Cyclopes, the three Hecatoncheires, and twelve Titans.
However, Uranus was a bad father and husband. He hated the Hecatoncheires. He imprisoned them by pushing them into the hidden places of the earth, Gaea’s womb. This angered Gaea and she ploted against Uranus. She made a flint sickle and tried to get her children to attack Uranus. All were too afraid except, the youngest Titan, Cronus.
Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush of Uranus as he lay with Gaea at night. Cronus grabed his father and castrated him, with the stone sickle, throwing the severed genitales into the ocean. The fate of Uranus is not clear. He either died, withdrew from the earth, or exiled himself to Italy. As he departed he promised that Cronus and the Titans would be punished. From his spilt blood came the Giants, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Erinnyes. From the sea foam where his genitales fell came Aphrodite.
Cronus became the next ruler. He imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus. He married his sister Rhea, under his rule the Titans had many offspring. He ruled for many ages. However, Gaea and Uranus both had prophesied that he would be overthrown by a son. To avoid this Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born. Rhea was angry at the treatment of the children and ploted against Cronus. When it came time to give birth to her sixth child, Rhea hid herself, then she left the child to be raised by nymphs. To concel her act she wrapped a stone in swaddling cloths and passed it off as the baby to Cronus, who swallowed it.
This child was Zeus. He grew into a handsome youth on Crete. He consulted Metis on how to defeat Cronus. She prepaired a drink for Cronus design to make him vomit up the other children. Rhea convinced Cronus to accept his son and Zeus was allowed to return to Mount Olympus as Cronus’s cupbearer. This gave Zeus the opertunity to slip Cronus the specially prepaired drink. This worked as planned and the other five children were vomitted up. Being gods they were unharmed. They were thankful to Zeus and made him their leader.
Cronus was yet to be defeated. He and the Titans, except Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Oceanus, fought to retain their power. Atlas became their leader in battle and it looked for some time as though they would win and put the young gods down. However, Zeus was cunning. He went down to Tartarus and freed the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. Prometheus joined Zeus as well. He returned to battle with his new allies. The Cyclopes provided Zeus with lighting bolts for weapons. The Hecatoncheires he set in ambush armed with boulders. With the time right, Zeus retreated drawing the Titans into the Hecatoncheires’s ambush. The Hecatoncheires rained down hundreds of boulders with such a fury the Titans thought the mountains were falling on them. They broke and ran giving Zeus victory.
Zeus exiled the Titans who had fought against him into Tartarus. Except for Atlas, who was singled out for the special punishment of holding the world on his shoulders.
However, even after this victory Zeus was not safe. Gaea angry that her children had been imprisoned gave birth to a last offspring, Typhoeus. Typhoeus was so fearsome that most of the gods fled. However, Zeus faced the monster and flinging his lighting bolts was able to kill it. Typhoeus was burried under Mount Etna in Sicily.
Much later a final challenge to Zeus rule was made by the Giants. They went so far as to attempt to invade Mount Olympus, piling mountain upon mountain in an effort to reach the top. But, the gods had grown strong and with the help of Heracles the Giants were subdued or killed.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of this myth is the extensive use of names that seem difficult to non native Greek speakers to pronounce. This sometimes causes frustration and loss of track when trying to establish the continuing relationship between these characters in the birth of the world. So you have to be patient and try to associate these names with the characters and events that took place…
It all started when Chaos, Gaia (Earth) and Eros started to mix with each other leading to the Gods. So In Greek mythology, the creation of the world starts with the creation of the different classes of Gods. in this case, Gods refers to the characters that ruled the Earth (without necessarily possessing any divine attributes) until the “real” Gods, the Olympians came. So after this brief introduction, the next step to examine in the creation of the world is the creation of the Gods (which really is the same thing, it’s just that when you are interested in the creation of the world, you look at the very beginning of the creation of the Gods, while, to examine the creation of the Gods, you have to look a little deeper).
Hesiod’s Theogony is one of the best introductions we have on the creation of the world. According to Hesiod, three major elements took part in the beginning of creation. Chaos, Gaia, and Eros. It is said that Chaos gave birth to Erebos and Night while Ouranos and Okeanos sprang from Gaia. Each child had a specific role, and Ouranos’s duty was to protect Gaia. Later on, the two became a couple and were the first Gods to rule the world. They had twelve children who where known as the Titans. Three others known as the Cyclopes, and the three hundred handed Giants.
The situation from here on however wasn’t too good. Ouranos wasn’t too pleased with his offsprings because he saw them as a threat to his throne. After all, there would come a time when they would grow up, and perhaps challenge his command. Ouranos eventually decided that his children belonged deep inside Gaia, hidden from himself and his kingdom. Gaia who wasn’t too pleased with this arrangement agreed at first, but, later on chose to give her solidarity to her children. She devised a plan to rid her children from their tyrant father, and supplied her youngest child Kronos with a sickle. She then arranged a meeting for the two in which Kronos cut off his father’s genitals. The seed of Ouranos which fell into the sea gave birth to Aphrodite, while from his blood were created the Fates, the Giants, and the Meliai nymphs.
Kronos succeeded his father in taking over the throne and married his sister Rhea. He also freed his siblings and shared his kingdom with them.Okeanos was given the responsibility to rule over the sea and rivers, while Hyperion guided the Sun and the stars. And time went by… Sooner than later Kronos had his own children, and the very same fears that haunted his father came back to torment him as well.
Kronos eventually decided that the best way to deal with this problem was to swallow all his children.
However, what goes around comes around, and once again the mother decided it was time to free her children. Rhea, Kronos’s wife, managed to save her youngest child, Zeus by tricking Kronos into swallowing a stone wrapped in clothes instead of Zeus himself.
The great Zeus was then brought up by the Nymphs in Mount Dikte in the island of Crete. In order to cover the sound of his crying, the Kouretes danced and clashed their shields. As Zeus entered manhood, he had the strength few dare dream of. He dethroned his father, and freed his siblings from his father’s entrails. It was now Zeus’s turn to rule the world…
THE HUMAN RACE
According to the myths, the immortal Gods thought that it would be interesting to create beings like them, but that were mortal. They would allow these beings to inhabit the earth. As soon as the mortals were created, Zeus, the leader of the Gods, ordered the two sons of the Titan Iapetus, Prometheus and Epimetheus, to give these beings various gifts in the hope that the mortals would evolve into interesting beings, able to amuse the Gods.
So the two brothers started to divide the gifts among themselves in order to give them to the earth’s inhabitants. Epimetheus asked his brother to give out the gifts first, and was granted his wish. He gave the gift of beauty to some animals, agility on other animals, strength in others, and agility and speed to some. However, he left the human race defenseless, with no natural weapons in this new kingdom. Prometheus, who liked the human race, upon realizing what had happened, promptly distributed his own gifts to mankind. He stole reason from Athena, and thus gave reason to man. He then stole fire from the gates of Hephaestus, and gave mankind this new gift, which would keep them warm. Prometheus then became the protector of the human race, and shared with it all the knowledge he had.
This new situation angered Zeus, for fire until know had been a gift only reserved for the Gods.Zeus did not want the human race to resemble the Gods. Zeus’s next step was to punish Prometheus. And a heavy punishment it was. Zeus chained Prometheus to a peak in the caucasus which was believed to be at the end of the world. He had an eagle eat his liver every single day for thirty years. At the end of each day, Prometheus’ liver would grow back again, so he would have to suffer all over again. After thirty years, Heracles (Hercules) released Prometheus from his nightmare.
The Olympians refers to the twelve Gods of mount Olympus which is located in the northern central part of Greece. This mountain was believed to be sacred throughout ancient times, and, it was believed to be the highest point on earth. These Gods that ruled mount Olympus, also ruled the lives of all mankind. Each and every single God (or Goddess) had their own character and domain. Gods in mythology were very human like. They had the strengths and weaknesses of mortals (as we know them today). they were truly made to represent each and every side of human nature. They supported justice, as seen by their own point of view.
Gods even had children with mortals, which resulted in semi-gods like Hercules. The most amazing observation is how the Gods expresses human nature in its complete form. Strength, fear, unfaithfulness, love, admiration, beauty, hunting, farming, education, there was a God for every human activity and expression. These Gods weren’t just ideal figures. they were beings with their own limitations. They expressed anger, jealousy and joy, just like us. Each God rules his own realm. they only true omnipotent God was Zeus, who ruled all.
Prometheus and Epimetheus were spared imprisonment in Tartarus because they had not fought with their fellow Titans during the war with the Olympians. They were given the task of creating man. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure.
Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the earth thier various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man. So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright as the gods did and to give them fire.
Prometheus loved man more then the Olympians, who had banished most of his family to Tartarus. So when Zeus decreed that man must present a portion of each animal they scarified to the gods Prometheus decided to trick Zeus. He created two piles, one with the bones wrapped in juicy fat, the other with the good meat hidden in the hide. He then bade Zeus to pick. Zeus picked the bones. Since he had given his word Zeus had to accept that as his share for future sacrafices. In his anger over the trick he took fire away from man. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the sun and brought it back again to man. Zeus was enraged that man again had fire. He decided to inflict a terrable punishment on both man and Prometheus.
To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty. The gods gave the mortal many gifts of wealth. He then had Hermes give the mortal a deceptive heart and a lying tongue. This creation was Pandora, the first women. A final gift was a jar which Pandora was forbidden to open. Thus, completed Zeus sent Pandora down to Epimetheus who was staying amongst the men.
Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to accept gifts from Zeus but, Pandora’s beauty was too great and he allowed her to stay. Eventually, Pandora’s curiosity about the jar she was forbidden to open became to great. She opened the jar and out flew all manor of evils, sorrows, plagues, and misfortunes. However, the bottom of the jar held one good thing – hope.
Zeus was angry at Prometheus for three things: being tricked on scarifices, stealing fire for man, and for refusing to tell Zeus which of Zeus’s children would dethrone him. Zeus had his servants, Force and Violence, seize Prometheus, take him to the Caucasus Mountains, and chain him to a rock with unbreakable adamanite chains. Here he was tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this torment. He could tell Zeus who the mother of the child that would dethrone him was. Or meet two conditions: First, that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus. Second, that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him and Heracles killed the eagle and unbound him.
As the sky god Zeus had easy access to the women of the world and took full advantage of it. Also, his power as a supreme god made him difficult to resist. Prior to his marriage to Hera he was married first to Metis, then Themis. He was interested in Demeter but she resisted him. His third wife was Mnemosyne. He was involved with Leto shortly before his marriage to Hera. The list of lovers after his final marriage, to Hera, is considerable:
Zeus came to lust after Metis, and chased her in his direct way. Metis tried to escape, going so far as to change her form many times. Turning into various creatures such as hawks, fish, and serpents. However, Zeus was both determined and equally proficient at changing form. He continued his persuit until she relented.
An Oracle of Gaea then prophesied that Metis first child would be a girl but, her second child would be a boy that would overthrow Zeus as had happened to his father and grandfather. Zeus took this warning to heart. When he next saw Metis he flattered her and put her at her ease. Then with Metis off gaurd Zeus suddenly opened his mouth and swallowed her. This was the end of Metis but, possibly the beginning of Zeus’s wisdom.
After a time Zeus developed the mother of all headaches. He howled so loudly it could be heard throughout the earth. The other gods came to see what the problem was. Hermes realized what needed to be done and directed Hephaestus to take a wedge and split open Zeus’s skull. Out of the skull sprang Athena, full grown and in a full set of armour. Due to her manor of birth she has dominion over all things of the intellect.
Once he had grown to manhood Dionysus decided to wander far and wide, including areas outside of greece. Where ever he went he taught men how to cultivate vines, and the mysteries of his cult. He was accepted until he returned to his own country of Thebes.
As he journeyed back to greece he was spotted by pirates. He appeared to them as a rich young man. He might even be the son of a king. He certainly looked like his parents would pay a rich ransom for his safe return. Happy at their good luck the pirates siezed him and brought him aboard their ship. They then attempted to tie him to the ship but, the ropes refused to hold. Anyplace a rope touched him it just fell apart. Dionysus watched calmly, smiling.
After some time the helmsman realized that only a god could be responsible. He called out that the crew should free Dionysus and beg his forgiveness. But, the captain mocked the helmsman as a fool and called for the crew to set sail. The crew raised the sail and caught the wind but, the ship did not move. Looking around they saw the ship quickly becoming overgrown with vines that held it fast. Dionysus then changed himself into a lion and began to chase the crewmen. To escape they leaped overboard but, as they did they were changed to dolphins. Only on the helmsman did Dionysus have mercy.
As he passed through Thrance he was insulted by King Lycurgus, who bitterly opposed his new religion. Initialy Dionysus retreated into the sea but, he returned, overpowered Lycurgus and imprisoned him in a rocky cave. Dionysus planned to let him reflect and learn from his mistakes. However, Zeus did not care to have the gods insulted, so he blinded then killed Lycurgus.
He pressed on to Thebes, ruled by his cousin Pentheus. However, Pentheus did not know of Dionysus. Dionysus was with a group of his followers, who were naturally singing and dancing loudly, flushed with wine. Pentheus disliked the loud, strangers, and ordered his guards to imprison them all. He refered to their leader as a cheating sorcerer from Lydia. When he said this the blind old phophet Teiresias, who had already dressed as one of Dionysus’s followers gave Pentheus a warning: “The man you reject is a new god. He is Semele’s child, whom Zeus rescued. He, along with Demeter, are the greatest upon earth for men.” Pentheus, seeing the strange garb Teiresias had on, laughed at him and ordered his guards to continue.
The guards soon found that ropes fell apart, latches fell open, and there they could not imprison Dionysus’s followers. The took Dionysus to Pentheus. Dionysus tried to explain at length his worship but, Pentheus listened only to his own anger and insulted Dionysus. Finally, Dionysus gave up and left Pentheus to his doom.
Pentheus persued Dionysus followers up into the hills where they had gone after walking away from his prison. Many of the local women including Pentheus’s mother and sister had joined them there. Then Dionysus appeared to his followers in his most terrible aspect and drove them mad. To them Pentheus appeared to be a moutain lion. In a berserk rage they attacked him. Now Pentheus realized he had fought with a god and would die for it. His mother was the first to reach him, and ripped his head off, while the others tore off his limbs
Once there was a young boy named Theseus. Nobody knew who his father was, for both King Aegeus of Athens and Poseidon had been fond of his mother Aethra. Right before Theseus was born Aegeus said to Aethra, “If we shall have a son, when he is old enough tell him to lift this rock and take my sword and sandals from under it.” Then Aegeus placed both his sword and his sandals under a large boulder and then set sail for Athens.
Now this all happened in a small town called Troezen where Theseus grew into a strong young man. When Aethra thought it was time she took Theseus to the large boulder and told him to lift it. Theseus wrapped his mighty arms around the boulder lifted it as if it were paper. Then he threw the boulder into a nearby forest. Aethra then told him to take the sword and sandals and go to Athens.
Theseus Journeys to Athens
Aethra and her father begged Theseus to go to Athens by sea, for horrible robbers and bandits inhabited the road, but Theseus was bold and went overland. After a few miles he met a large man with a shiny club. “I am Periphetes the cudgel man and I’m going to bash you’re head with this club,” he said. “That’s a mighty fine club you have there,” replied Theseus.
“I bet it isn’t.”
“Yes it is.”
“It’s just wood wrapped in brass.”
“Here, look at it to make sure.”
Periphetes handed the club to Theseus. Theseus knocked Periphetes in the side of the head with it. “Not bad,” thought Theseus, “not bad at all. I think I’ll keep this.”
Theseus started walking again. Not much farther he saw giant man holding a battle-ax on the side of the road. “I am Sciron and these are my cliffs. To pass you must wash my feet as a toll!” the man said. “What would happen if I didn’t?” replied Theseus. “I will chop of your head with this ax, and don’t think that puny little twig you’re carrying will save you, you’re absolutely…WRONG!!!!” Sciron yelled. So Theseus sat down and started to wash Sciron’s feet. Theseus looked over the side of the cliff, there was a monstrous turtle at the bottom. Then Theseus knew that this was the Sciron that kicked people off the cliff where a man-eating turtle waited. When Sciron’s foot came towards him, Theseus jerked aside and hurled Sciron off the cliff.
Theseus walked a ways longer until he saw a man that looked remarkably like Sciron. The man said, “Could you do me a favor young man? Hold this pine tree down for me.” The man’s name was Sinis the pine-bender. Sinis bent a pine tree down and waited for Theseus to hold the tree down with him. Then Sinis let go! He was expecting Theseus to be catapulted in the air, but Theseus held it down. Sinis stooped down to get a better look at the tree, thinking that it had broken. Theseus let go of the tree. It hit Sinis in the chin knocking him unconscious. Theseus then tied Sinis’ legs to one bent pine tree, his arms to another. Then Theseus let go, the trees ripped Sinis in half. Vultures screamed with delight.
Theseus went on his way again. After a few miles it got dark. Theseus saw a large house up ahead of him. He decided to ask the owner for a bed for the night. He walked up to the door and knocked. A man came to the door and said, “Welcome young man. Come in, you look tired. My name is Procustes. I have a magic bed for you to stay the night on. It is exactly six feet long, but can fit anyone, be they short or tall.” Theseus had been warned about a man named Procustes. His so called “magic” bed did fit anyone, but in an unpleasant way. If you were to short he would fasten chains on to your arms and legs and stretch you. If you were too tall he would chop of your legs until you were just right. Procustes led Theseus into the room where the bed was. Theseus pushed Procustes on to the bed and chopped off his legs. So Procustes wouldn’t feel pain Theseus sliced his head off to.
The next morning Theseus reached Athens. It was the largest city he had ever seen. He went to the castle where Aegeus lived. Aegeus had married Medea who (being a sorceress) had him under her power. With her powers Medea recognized Theseus and knew that he would get rid of her. So she told Aegeus that Theseus had come to kill him and that she would give Theseus poisoned wine. Aegeus-not knowing that Theseus was his son-agreed. Aegeus invited Theseus to a banquet. When Theseus was just about to drink his wine Aegeus recognized the sword and dashed the wine cup to the floor. Theseus and Aegeus were filled with happiness. Medea left in a chariot drawn by dragons.
Theseus Journeys to Minos
Theseus and Aegeus were happy for a long time, but when the time of the spring equinox came all the Athenians became mournful as a ship with black sail approached Athens. Theseus begged his father to tell him why the Athenians were sad, but Aegeus said nothing.
Theseus went down to the harbor and asked the captain of the black-sailed ship what was happening. The captain told him about how King Minos of Crete’s eldest son Androgeus had accidentally been killed in Athens. Minos was very angry. He attacked Athens and demanded that the Athenians pay a yearly tribute of seven young man and seven young women to be fed to the Minotaur. The Minotaur was half man and half bull. It lived in the Labyrinth, a large maze that once one is in he or she will be aimlessly lost in it’s many tunnels.
Theseus went back to Aegeus and said, “I will go to Crete as one of the victims and I will slay the Minotaur!” “No my son,” said Aegeus, “you mustn’t go. You are my only son. The only heir to the throne.” “I must go father. I must prove that I am a hero.” said Theseus. In the end Aegeus let Theseus go, but made him promise that if he return alive, to change the sails from black to white. So Theseus volunteered to go as one of the fourteen victims.
When Theseus and his companions landed at Crete, Minos was there to welcome them. He asked each who they were. When it came to Theseus’ turn he said, “I am Theseus, prince of Athens, son of Poseidon!” To this Minos replied, “If you were the prince of Athens wouldn’t old Aegeus be your father. To prove you are son of Poseidon fetch my ring.” Minos threw his ring into the sea. Praying to Poseidon Theseus dived into the water. He saw the nymph Thetis who gave him the ring and an old crown. Theseus came to the surface holding the ring and the crown. Minos laughed.
That night Theseus was visited by Minos’ daughter Ariadne. She said to him, “Theseus, I have decided to help you kill the Minotaur if you will take me back to Athens and make me your queen.” Theseus was glad of the help and promised to Ariadne that he would take her back to Athens. She gave Theseus a ball of silk thread and told him to tie it to the entrance of the Labyrinth and unwind it as he went. The string would lead him back to the entrance.
The next day Theseus and his companions were forced into the Labyrinth. Theseus tied the string onto a rock and told everyone to follow him. He led them towards the center of the Labyrinth where the Minotaur was. When they got there they saw the beast sleeping. Theseus jumped on it and ripped of one of it’s horns. Theseus started poking at the Minotaur (who was very angry) with the horn. Then Theseus ran to a safer distance and threw the horn like a javelin. The horn ripped into the monsters neck and stuck there. The Minotaur now enraged charged at Theseus, but fell dead before it was half way. Everyone cheered. Theseus was a hero! They followed the thread back to the entrance of the Labyrinth.
Theseus, Ariadne, and the others went on board the black-sailed ship and set sail for Athens. One night the god Dionysus came to Theseus and said, “You mustn’t marry Princess Ariadne for I have chosen her as my own bride. Leave her on the island of Naxos.” Theseus did as the god told him. He was so sad, he forgot to change the sails from black to white. Old Aegeus sat on a cliff watching and waiting for Theseus to come, but when he saw the black sails he jumped into the sea. That fatal stretch of water was named after him. It still is called the Aegean.