Creation of Gods and Mankind
In many ancient culture and religion, there are stories of the Creation Myths. These myths normally tell of how the gods created the world and mankind. There are some common stories of how the gods were themselves born, their wars against the elder gods, and probably the most interesting, is the story of a great Flood with few human survivors.
The best known story of the Flood can be found in the Bible (Genesis), but they can also be found in Mesopotamia, Greece, Scandinavia, India, China and even from the Australian Aborigines. Each culture has it own version of the flood. The Greeks called it the Deluge.
Here, we have several Greek versions of the creation of the world, including the story of the Flood. The most authoritative source comes from the Boeotian poet of the 7th century BC, Hesiod, but I will deal with alternative sources later.
|Theogony of Hesiod|
|Obscure Creation Myths|
Please note that I have move the article on the Underworld to a new page called the House of Hades, where you will find the descriptions of world of dead and the deities who resided there.
Genealogy: Pantheon of Greek Deities
Fact and Figures: Astronomy
Hesiod was a Boeotian poet of either the 8th or 7th century BC, who is believed by many to flourish not long after Homer. Hesiod had written two poems, Works and Days and the Theogony. Both works can actually be combined to form an adequate Creation myth, though I had mostly relied on the Theogony.
The Theogony begins with Chaos and end with Zeus’ reign, and it included the tale of Titanomachia, which is the war between the Titans and the Olympians. You will also find the about Prometheus and the Deluge.
It is in Works and Days, where you would find Hesiod’s account of the Five Ages of Man, as well as the myth of Prometheus and Pandora. Prometheus stealing fire is also found in the other poem.
Below is the myth of Creation, where I have relied mainly on Hesiod’s version, but my other sources included Apollodorus’ Library and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to supplement Hesiod’s myth.
|War in Heaven and on Earth|
|Rise of the Olympians|
|Underworld, see House of Hades|
|Five Ages of Man|
|Saviour of Mankind|
|Before the beginning of the universe, there was nothing in existence until Chaos (Χάος) came into being. Who or what was Chaos was, the Greeks not really made clear. The Greeks usually associated Chaos as a male entity. Chaos could be personification of the abyss or void, a formless confusion.
Out of the void, came Nyx (Νύξ, “Night”) and Erebus (Ἔρεβος, “Darkness”). Also from Chaos – Eros (Ἐρως, “Love”), Gaea (Γαἳα, “Earth”) and Tartarus (Τάρταρος) came into being. It was Eros that made it possible for propagation between two beings – to produce offspring.
By her brother Erebus, Nyx became mother of Aether (Αἰθήρ, “Upper Air”) and Hemera (Ἡμέρα, “Day”). This was the first sexual union. By herself, Nyx became mother of several abstract personifications: Thanatos (“Death”), Moros (“Doom”), Hypnos (“Sleep”), the Fates or Moerae and Nemesis.
Gaea married her other son, Uranus, and he became ruler of the universe. Gaea became the mother of the Titans, Hecatoncheires (Ἑκατόγχειρες, Hundred-Handed) and Cyclops (Κύκλωπες, “Wheel-eyed”). The birth of their children resulted in a war by the gods that lasted for generation.
Uranus (Οὔρανος) became ruler of the universe after marrying his mother, Gaea (Οὔρανος). Uranus was the father of the three giant creatures with hundred hands and fifty heads, Briareus, Cottus and Gyges. These giants were known as the Hecatoncheires (Ἑκατόγχειρες, Hundred-Handed). They were monstrous in size and strength. They were so ugly that Uranus hid them within their mother’s body. Uranus probably did the same to his other three offspring known as the Cyclops (Κύκλωπες). The Cyclopes were also giants, with a single eye in their foreheads. The three Cyclopes were named Arges, Brontes and Steropes. Imprisoning the six gigantic creatures within her body caused Gaea a great deal of pain.
The Titans were also his offspring, but they were smaller in size and fairer in looks. Unlike their ugly brethren the Titans weren’t imprisoned. Gaea was furious at the treatment of her earlier sons, so she appealed to her son, Cronus (Κρόνος), youngest of the Titans, to overthrow her husband and his father.
At night, when Uranus was about to lay with his mother-wife (Gaea), Cronus castrated his father with an adamantine sickle and threw his father’s genitals into the sea, near the island of Cythera. The Giants, Erinyes (Ἐρινύες, Furies) and Meliae were born from the blood that fell on the ground, thereby impregnating her (Gaea). The Olympians would later fight the Giants, aided by the hero Heracles.
In the sea, the water began foaming around the severed genitals of Uranus. This foams drifted across vast distant of sea, before it reached the isle of Cyprus. From the foaming sea, Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη), goddess of love, divinely beautiful and naked, sprang into being, already as fully grown young woman.
Waiting on the shore of Cyprus, Eros (Love) and Himerus (Desire) waited to greet her. The other gods paid honour to her. Aphrodite would later become the member of the Olympians, even though she was technically not an Olympian.
Cronus succeeded his father as ruler of the universe, and became leader of the Titans. He shared the earth with his brothers and sisters. Cronus married his sister, Rhea (Ῥεία), his consort. It was during his reign that he created mankind, and ruled during the Golden Age.
Cronus however did not release his brothers, the Hundred-Handed and the Cyclops, from Tartarus. The whole purpose that Gaea instructed Cronus and the Titans to revolt against Uranus’ rule was to release her other sons from Tartarus. Instead, Cronus had the monster Campe to guard the Hundred Handed and the Cyclopes, to prevent their escape from Tartarus.
This caused his mother to become angry with her son that she announced that Cronus would be in turn, be overthrown by his own son, like when Cronus overthrew his father.
Cronus tried to avoid this fate, by swallowing each child that his sister-wife (Rhea) gave birth to. The usual story is that, he swallowed all his children except his youngest Zeus (Ζεύς). Rhea realising she would lose all of her children, gave her husband a stone wrapped in swaddling cloth. The unsuspecting Cronus swallowed the stone.
Rhea hid the infant Zeus in Crete, where he was brought up by nymphs and the Curetes. According to some, Zeus was born in Crete, while others say that his birthplace was in Arcadia, but he was hidden from his father at Crete. His home was in the cave of either Mount Ida or Mount Dicte. The infant Zeus was fed from the milk of the goat Amalthea. The Curetes were Cretan spirits or daimones, and were usually described and depicted as youths. The Curetes danced war-dance, clashing their spears against their shields so that Zeus’ cries were drowned out by their noise. This part of myth may actually be of pre-Hellenic origin from Minoan Crete.
When Zeus had grown, he married one of daughters of the Titans (the Oceanids), Oceanus and Tethys, named Metis (Μἣτις). From Gaea, he received a drug that would make Cronus disgorged the five older children that Cronus had swallowed. Metis gave Cronus the emetic, where he vomited up Zeus’ brothers and sisters.
War broke out between the Titans against the younger gods known as the Olympians, led by Zeus. This war was known as the Titanomachia.
Zeus and his brothers required aids, since they were outnumbered. None of the female Titans (Titanesses) took part in the war. Of all the sons of Uranus and Gaea, Oceanus (Ὠκανωός) had chosen to remain neutral. When Zeus calls upon the younger Titans to help him, the first to change side was the Styx (Στύξ), the eldest daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. Styx came to Zeus with her children: Bia (violence), Cratus (strength), Nike (victory) and Zelus (emulation). For this reason, Zeus honoured her above the other gods, and gave special places to her children.
Prometheus (Προμηθεός) and Epimetheus (Ἐπιμηθεύα), the sons of Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene or Asia, had also defected to the Olympians, because Prometheus knew that the Zeus and his brothers would eventually win. Prometheus unsuccessfully tried to persuade his father Iapetus and his eldest brother, Atlas (Ἄτλας), to change side.
Gaea advise Zeus that her other children, the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handed would help him if he was to release them from their dungeons in Tartarus. So Zeus descended the netherworld and killed the guard, Campe, and released the prisoners.
The Cyclopes became known as master smiths and as master builders. The Cyclops was responsible for making several weapons for the younger gods: Thunderbolt for Zeus, the Trident for Poseidon, and the Cap of Invisibility for Hades.
Victory was ensured when Zeus also released the Hundred-Handed. Because there were three Hundred-Handed and each giant had a hundred hands, they could hurl 300 large boulders at the Titans.
The war last for ten years before the Olympians won, and most of the male Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus, the deepest region in the Underworld. Zeus set the Hundred-Handed to guard the Titans. The Cyclopes or their descendants worked in the forge of Hephaestus.
There was a special punishment for Atlas. In Libya, the western part of North Africa, Atlas had carried the weight of the sky upon his shoulders, for countless centuries.
|Although, Zeus and the Olympians defeated the Titans, they were faced with an even mightier foe, the Typhon (Τυφών). Gaea had conceived the new offspring from her brother Tartarus.
Apollodorus gave a wonderful description of Typhon, in his work called the Library. Typhon was a gigantic winged monster that was part man and part beast. Typhon was also taller than the tallest mountain. Under Typhon’s arms there was a hundred dragon-heads. Below his thighs were the massive coils of vipers. Typhon was a terribly horrifying sight and was deadly since flame would gush from his mouth.
Typhon was father by Echidna (daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, or else, Gaea and Tartarus, which make it Typhon’s sister) of many monstrous offspring: Cerberus, Chimaera, Orthus, the Hydra, Nemean Lion, Sphinx, the Caucasian Eagle, the Crommyonian Sow and vultures.
There are few different versions on how Zeus defeated the Typhon. Here, I will relate to the most popular version of the myth.
According to Ovid and Hyginus, when Typhon came and attacked the heaven, all the Olympians fled south from Typhon, to Egypt. The Olympians had transformed themselves into various animals to escape from the monster. Apollo had disguised himself into a crow, his sister Artemis into a cat, while Dionysus had changed into a goat, as did Pan (where he was known as Aeocerus; the goat was later immortalised as the constellation Capricorn). Hera turned into a snowy cow, Hermes into ibis, Aphrodite and Eros into fishes; the fishes were later commemorated as the constellation Pisces.
Only Zeus dared to confront Typhon. Zeus hurled his deadly thunderbolts, but as the monster drew closer, Zeus would attack Typhon with the sickle of adamantine (note that this is the same sickle that Cronus had used against his father Uranus, see War in Heaven and Earth; and possibly the same sickle used by Perseus to decapitate Medusa). The Typhon fled to Mount Casion in Syria.
Zeus seeing that the monster had being seriously wounded, became over-confident. Typhon trapped Zeus in his massive coils, and with Zeus’ sickle, Typhon managed to cut the sinews and tendons of Zeus’ hands and had the god imprisoned in the Corycian cave in Cilicia. According to Apollodorus, Typhon had set a she-dragon Delphyne to guard this cave, and the sinews were hidden under bear’s skin. Without his sinews, Zeus was helpless and could not wield the thunderbolts.
Hermes and Aigipan had somehow retrieved the sinews and rescued Zeus. After Zeus was restored of his sinews, Zeus regained the use of the thunderbolts.
Zeus wielded his mighty thunderbolts against Typhon, pursuing the monster to Sicily. Zeus defeated Typhon, and buried the monster under Mount Etna or the entire island of Sicily. The volcanic eruptions of Mount Etna were the result of Typhon’s spewing out his fire.
|Zeus (Ζεύς), the leader of the Olympians, became the supreme ruler of the universe. He shared the world with his two brothers, Poseidon and Hades. Through casting the lot, Zeus receive the heaven and became the god of the sky, including the rain and storm, while Poseidon (Ποσειδὣν) became god of the sea and Hades (Ἅιδης) ruled the Underworld, the world of the dead.
The younger gods were called Olympians because they made their home on or in the sky above Mount Olympus. Olympus was a mountain almost 3000 metres high, in northern Thessaly.
Zeus became the father of most of the younger Olympian gods.
Zeus learned from his grandparents, Gaea and Uranus, that if his first wife, Metis, bore a second child, that son would dethrone him as he had overthrown his father Cronus. Zeus wanted to avoid this fate, decided to swallow Metis, while she was still pregnant. When it was time for Metis to give birth, Zeus was suffering from a massive headache. Unable to bear the pain, Hephaestus or Prometheus split open Zeus’ head with an axe. His daughter, Athena (Ἀθηνᾶ) sprang out of the Zeus’ head fully armed. This alarmed the other gods, until she took off her helmet, revealing a less warlike appearance.
Zeus married the Titaness Themis, before he married his own sister Hera (Ἥρα). Hera became his consort, queen of heaven. She bore Zeus, Ares (Ἄρης) and two daughters – Eileithyia and Hebe. Some say that Hephaestus (Ἥφαιστος) was also their son, but Hephaestus was more popularly known as the son of Hera, without a father.
Zeus had several love affairs with other goddesses. By the Titaness, Leto (Λητώ), he became the father of the twins, Apollo (Ἀπόλλων) and Artemis (Ἄρτεμις). The Pleiade Maia, daughter of Atlas, was the mother of Hermes (Ἑρμἣς), the messenger of the gods.
According to some authors, Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη) was his daughter by Dione, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, while other earlier writers say she sprung out of the sea, from severed genitals of Uranus (I preferred this version, since aphros means “sea-foams”).
The other Olympian was Hestia, the eldest child of Cronus and Rhea. Some writers say that Dionysus (Διόνυσος), son of Zeus and a mortal, Semele, became an Olympian, when Hestia decided to step aside for the youngest god.
Though Zeus’ other sister, Demeter (Δημήτηρ), was the great earth goddess, she was not always recognised as an Olympian. Those who say that she was an Olympian, say that Hades was not, because Hades had never lived in Olympus.
|The creation of mankind can be divided into five ages.
Cronus created the Golden Age. It was the happiest erafor mankind, where people lived and died peacefully. There was no illness and no disease. They never suffer from hardship of war or toil of the earth. Foods were wild and plentiful. When they died they became spirits, becoming guardian of mankind.
But when the new gods arrived, they began experimenting on the creation of mankind, creating a new age. Each succeeding age would be inferior from the last, from excellent to worse.
The third period was the Bronze Age, which was populated with brazen men, who loved war for its own sake, until they destroyed themselves in continuous warfare. According to Apollodorus, Zeus tried to destroy the men of the Bronze Age with the Deluge.
The last age was the Iron Age. This was the worse age, where good will and decency would cease to exist. Men would suffer from great oppression by the wicked rulers. The rulers would only satisfy their own needs, because of their greed and thirst for power, until Zeus would destroy this race.
According to Apollodorus, it was Prometheus who created mankind, not Cronus nor Zeus. According to one myth, Prometheus would make each man and woman from clay and displayed what he had made to Zeus. One beautiful youth that Prometheus had created, he wanted to hide, because he knew of Zeus’ fondness for boy.
When Zeus became the supreme ruler of the universe, he was not interested with mortals, and began experimenting with the creation of mankind. The Titan, Prometheus (Προμηθεός), however, tried to protect mankind from the other gods. But in doing so Prometheus would bring about his own downfall.
Prometheus was one of the few males Titans to support the Olympians in the war against the Titans. Prometheus knew the Titans would lose the war, so he persuaded his brother to change side. Prometheus was an extremely intelligent and wise god, who was gifted with foresight. He failed to persuade his father Iapetus and his elder brother Atlas (Ἄτλας) not to resist against Zeus, but without avail. Both Iapetus and Atlas were punished for opposing the Olympians.
Prometheus was guardian of mankind, often trying to aid them. Prometheus stole fire from the heaven, hiding the fire within a hollow fennel-stalk, and gave it to man (or he taught them how to make fire).
Prometheus had also tricked Zeus, to select the part of the sacrifice the gods and man will receive. He made sure that man receive the best part.
He cut a bull, and disguised the meat with its hide and entrails on top, while the bones were covered with fat. Zeus was angry with Prometheus, when he found out that he had selected the fat with only bones. The bones and fat were to be used to sacrifice to the gods, while man would keep the best meat for himself.
Zeus took his revenge upon mankind, by creating the first mortal woman, named Pandora (Πανδώρα). The gods gave her gifts before showing his creation to the rest of the world. Zeus gave Pandora to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus, in marriage. Prometheus tried to warn his brother not to accept anything from Zeus, but Epimetheus did not listen to his wise brother.
One of the wedding gifts given to the new couple was a beautiful, large box. Pandora was told, to never open the box. But Pandora was curious; she wanted to know what was in the box.
One day, she opened the box. All sorts of misfortunes – sufferings and evils – had escaped, to plague mankind. In horror, Pandora quickly closed the lid, but it was too late. The only thing that did not escape was Hope. This was the only thing that provided comfort for mankind in their suffering.
Prometheus did not escape Zeus’ punishment, for giving fire to mankind. He was taken to Caucasian Mountains, and chained to the highest peak. Each day, a giant eagle (Caucasian Eagle) would come and feed on Prometheus’ liver and entrails, causing the Titan to suffer in great agony.
Prometheus appeared in Aeschylus’ play, Prometheus Bound (mid 5th century BC), where the Titan encountered a suffering heifer. This cow was a maiden named Io, daughter of the Argive river god, Inachus. Unfortunately, she was a high priestess of Hera, who was loved by Hera’s husband, Zeus. Zeus tried to hide Io from Hera, by transforming the girl into a beautiful white cow. Hera asked for the heifer (Io) as a gift, which Zeus couldn’t refuse. Hera knew who the cow was, anyway. Hera set a herdsman, named Argus Panoptes with hundred eyes, to guard Io, so that Zeus couldn’t rescue Io. After Hermes had killed Argus Panoptes, Hera sent a gadfly to torment Io. The gadfly stung her repeatedly that Io began to wander through many distant lands.
When Prometheus met her, the Titan informed her that she would have her natural form restored to her one day, when she reaches Egypt. She would have a son by Zeus, and she would have descendants that produce powerful rulers and great heroes. Prometheus also foretold his own freedom, and reconciliation with Zeus. See Io, in the Heroines page.
The irony of Prometheus’ punishment was that Heracles, son of Zeus, would release the Titan from his bondage. In returned for his freedom, Prometheus informed Heracles how to win the apples of Hesperides from Prometheus’ own brother, Atlas.
Once Prometheus gained his freedom, the Titan, once again, shared his wisdom to Zeus. Prometheus warned Zeus not to seduce the sea goddess Thetis, because she would bear a son who would be greater than his father. Zeus avoided this fate by marrying Thetis to the hero Peleus.
There was another reason, why Prometheus was released. According to Hesiod, it was simply that Zeus wished to increase the glories and fames of his son (Heracles).
|Hesiod doesn’t recount of the Deluge, so I had to rely on several different authors.
Zeus decided to destroy the race of men with flood, for their wickedness and impiety.
According to Apollodorus, it was the race of men in the Bronze Age that Zeus wanted to destroy. Another one of the possible reasons that Zeus send the flood was that Lycaon and his 50 sons in Arcadia had slaughtered a baby, and gave the flesh to Zeus to eat, when the god was disguised as a labourer. See Lycaon in Wrath of Heaven.
Zeus sending rain and storm while Poseidon (Ποσειδὣν) send water from the sea, covering the land with water.
Prometheus managed to save his family, by warning them. Deucalion (Δευκαλίων) was his son by Pronoea. Deucalion had married Pyrrha (Πέρρα), daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. They built a chest, stored with provision.
The flood lasted nine days and nights, when the chest landed at the peak of Mount Parnassus. Even though Zeus did not like Prometheus, the god was not angry that Deucalion and Pyrrha had survived the flood since they were pious couple.
According to Ovid, Deucalion and Pyrrha were lonely, being the only survivors. They found a ruin temple and prayed to the goddess Themis. Themis told them to throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders.
At first they were outraged by such suggestion, until Deucalion correctly interpreted that the stones on the ground were the bone of mother earth (Gaea). As the two started throwing stones behind them, people sprung out of the earth. These people became known as the Stone People. Stones that Deucalion threw, became men, while Pyrrha created women with her tossed stones.
According to Apollodorus, Deucalion offered sacrifice to Zeus, as the God of Escape, when they had disembarked from the chest. Zeus sent Hermes to grant them a wish. Deucalion said that they want people, so it was Zeus, not Themis, who instructed Deucalion and Pyrrha to throw rocks over their shoulders to make people out of stones.
Deucalion and Pyrrha became parents of Hellen, Amphictyon, Protogeneia, Pandora and Thyia. Deucalion ruled in Phthia, and was succeeded by his son, Hellen.
According to Apollodorus, not the whole of mankind died in the Flood, with the exception of Deucalion and Pyrrha; there were other survivors, but Apollodorus doesn’t say who. These few survivors were able to escape the devastation through scaling high mountains.
Hesiod was the not the only Greek poet who wrote about the Creation and the origin of gods and mankind. Hesiod’s account is just one kind. The world was created from Chaos first, and then by the World Parents – Gaea (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven).
There are several different versions about the Creation. An older poet, Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, alluded to a different cosmogony to Hesiod. And then there are yet, other different cosmogonies that are involved with the Cosmic Egg.
While another tradition about the Creation by the Cosmic Egg, involved the gods Phanes or Protogonus, and Dionysus/Zagreus. This other tradition had come from the poems of the so-called cult of the Orphic Mysteries.
What these two Creation myths have in common is the Cosmic Egg that usually came into existence from void (chaos) or the abyss. The Cosmic Egg, World Egg or whatever other names it may have, it is a common and universal theme in creation myths, not only in these obscure Greek myths, but also from other cultures and civilisations. However, the Cosmic Egg is noticeably absent in Hesiod’s Theogony.
|Eurynome and Ophion|
|Cosmogony of Diodorus Siculus|
|In the Iliad, Homer had only briefly alluded to the creation. Hera seduced Zeus at Mount Ida, in the hope of turning the tide against the Trojans, by lulling her husband to sleep. To seduce Zeus, Hera required aids from other gods.
First, she sought aid from Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Hera wanted to borrow Aphrodite’s girdle, which would make irresistibly seductive. Hera lied to Aphrodite saying that she wished to patch the relationship between Oceanus (Ὠκανωός) and Tethys (Τηθύς), who had raised her. In fact, she was using it in the hope to seduce Zeus. Hera says that “…to see Oceanus, from whom the gods arose, and Mother Tethys” (quoted from Robert Fitzgerald’s translation, Book XIV 199).
She used Hypnos to lull Zeus to sleep. Hypnos boasted to Hera that he could even lull Oceanus to slumber, “…the primal source of all that lives” (Book XIV 258-61). However, Hypnos was reluctant to help Hera, because the first time he helped her, he was almost thrown into the deep sea. Fearing Zeus’ rage, Hypnos had to take refuge with his mother, Nyx (Night). Powerful as Zeus was, the king of gods feared the “all-subduing Night (Nyx)”.
When she meet Zeus, Hera lied to him, when she mentioned Oceanus and Tethys that she wanted to patch their relationship up, since they have not slept together in a single bed, since they had last quarrel. Hera was saying the same thing that she said to Aphrodite moment before. (Book XIV 301-304).
To Homer, Oceanus and Tethys were more ancient than Titans; they were referred to as the World Parents (Creators), displacing Uranus and Gaea, or that of Cronus and Rhea. Oceanus have a stream that completely circumvented the earth, which was a flat round disk. And Tethys was said to be the mother of the gods.
Homer was more interested about the war at Troy, than about the Creation, so much have been left unsaid.
|According to Apollonius Rhodius, who mentioned a creation myth that was very different from that of Hesiod’s Theogony. Apollonius’ account is very short and rather sketchy.
Apollonius begins the myth, as one of the songs sang by Orpheus (Ὀρφεύς) after the departure of the Argonauts from Iolcus. Orpheus was the mythical bard who had joined Jason and the Argonauts in the Quest.
Orpheus sang a song about how the world was originally cast in one single mould; the earth, sky and sea was all mixed up in this mould, until the mould was tore sunder from some internal turmoil within the Cosmic Egg. All of the sudden, the earth, sea and heaven were separated; mountains rose from the sea, while the sun and moon and stars travelled followed their path through the sky (something like the Big Bang).
Two of the earliest beings came into existence, during the creation of the world. One was named Eurynome (Εὐρυνόμη), daughter of the Ocean (Oceanus), while her consort was named Ophion (Ὀφίων). Together they ruled the entire universe from Olympus.
But one day, the Titans Cronus (Κρόνος) and Rhea (Ῥεία) had violently displaced Ophion and Eurynome from Olympus. They had flung Ophion and Eurynome into the Ocean (as opposed to being confined in Tartarus, like in Hesiod’s Theogony).
The account ended here.
Apollonius did not give much detail at all. I had some difficulties in finding out if Apollonius had got this from another source or did he invent this little account, by himself. It was discovered that myth about Eurynome, as the creator-goddess, was said to be much older than the Theogony, which was written by Hesiod in the 7th century BC.
Apollonius had only mentioned Zeus as an infant in a cave in Crete, as well as a mention that one day he would wield the thunderbolt, forged by the Cyclopes, like in Hesiod’s account. However, Apollonius doesn’t complete his song told by Orpheus, where like in Hesiod’s myth, Zeus displaced the Titans.
A more detail account was found on Eurynome and Ophion that was quite different from Apollonius’ allusion on the creation. This is said to be the myth of the original race or inhabitants in Greece, who were known as the Pelasgians.
(Before I end here, I would like to say that I have taken part of this article out, concerning the so-called Pelasgian Creation Myth, which is different to that of Apollonius’ account. This myth was recreated by Robert Graves, a famous contemporary mythographer and author of a number of books, including The White Goddess (I haven’t read this), and The Greek Myths, which is where I got the PCM (Pelasgian Creation Myth) from. He was the only person I know who wrote this version of Eurynome and the Cosmic Egg.
Although PCM was very interesting, I am rather dubious of Mr Graves’ account, which he has said to reconstruct from various sources. What I am doubtful is his reconstruction, which was more of his elaboration and invention than genuine myths from the Pelasgians. Until I can find more authentic sources that resembled Graves’ account, I am afraid that the Pelasgian Creation Myth will no longer posted here. I am sorry if I had caused any inconvenience.)
|The Orphic Creation Myth is another scenario of the Cosmic Egg origin, but without the Creator Goddess, Eurynome (see Eurynome and Ophion).
In the beginning, there was Time, which the Greeks called Chronus or Khronos (Χρόνος). This was a period called the Unaging Time, when nothing existed and nothing grew old; indeterminate and (almost) limitless time, which some people would call Aeon. Existing at the same time as Chronus was Adrasteia (Ἀδραστεια), or Ananke (Ἀνάγκη), meaning “Necessity”.
Chronus and Adrasteia combined to create primordial Spirit and Matter, which were called Aether (Αἰθήρ) and Chaos (Χάος). (Hesiod had referred to Aether as the upper atmosphere, where the air was clean and pure; he referred to Aether as male entity, while in the Orphic myth, Aether was seen as female being. Chaos was fathomless void, abyss or the yawning gap. With Hesiod, Chaos was a male primordial being, whereas in Orphic myth, the role had changed.) A third primordial being came out of Time and Necessity, Erebus – “Darkness”. Chronus then combined with Aether, or possibly with Chaos and Aether, so the primeval beings caused mists to form and solidify into a Cosmic Egg.
The Orphic myth was not the only one to use the Egg motif for their cosmogony. The World Egg can be found in many different Creation myths, such as from Egypt, Persia and India. After all the egg was the symbol of new birth and new life. That the god and the world were created from the Cosmic Egg. It wasn’t even original idea in Greek myths. The Athenian comedy playwright, Aristophanes, wrote in the Birds that Nyx (Νύξ, Night) laid the egg, which Eros (Ἐρως, Love) was born from. In Apollonius’ epic, Argonautica, it was Eurynome who created the Egg, which the world as we know it, came into existence.
The Cosmic Egg was the first definable matter that was created out of infinity. The World Egg was gigantic and silver in colour. When the great resplendent, silver Egg hatched, out sprang Protogonus (Πρωτογονυς), which literally means First-born, the first god. According to one Neo-Platonist writer, the Egg shell split in two: the two shells forming heaven and earth.
Protogonus has known by several other names, such as Phanes (Φανης), the god of light; Ericapaeus (Ἐρικαπαεος) meaning “Power”, and Metis (Μἣτις), which means “Intelligence”. Writers often called him – Phanes. As Phanes, he was the primeval sun god with golden wings. He has four eyes, which allowed him to look in any direction. He was said to possess a number of heads in the shapes of various animals. He had a voice of bull and that of a lion. Though, he was said to be invisible, he radiated pure light.
Protogonus had been identified with Eros (Love); Hesiod’s Eros was also an earlier god, born at the same time as Gaea and Tartarus. Sometimes, Phanes was called Dionysus (Διόνυσος); if this is the case, then he was the first of three incarnations of Dionysus.
Though people speak of him as a god, Protogonus/Phanes was in fact an androgynous being. Without a partner, he conceived and gave birth to Nyx (Night). (Different accounts say that it was Nyx, who laid the Cosmic Egg, therefore she was Protogonus’ mother, not his daughter.)
Protogonus (Phanes) was the first supreme ruler of heaven. Either Nyx ruled with Protogonus or on her own. Some times later, he lay with his own daughter, and then he became the father of Earth and Heaven, which they were named Gaea and Uranus. So it was Protogonus who created the earth and heaven. It was also Protogonus who had created the Golden Age of Man.
Nyx ruled after Protogonus, before she abdicated in favour of her son, Uranus, who made Gaea as his consort.
What follow is similar to Hesiod’s Theogony. Heaven and Earth were the parents of the three Hundred-Handed (Hecatoncheires) and the three Cyclopes. They were also the parents of the Titans; they had seven sons and seven daughters (see the tables for the list of the children of Uranus and Gaea, in the Titans page).
Among Uranus’ children was Cronus, the evil Titan, who dethroned his father. In Hesiod’s account, it was Gaea who conspired with his son, to rid of her husband, but in the Orphic myth, it was both Nyx and Gaea who brought about Uranus’ downfall, using the Titans. Cronus castrated Uranus and threw his father’s genitals into the sea. Foam formed in the sea, which drifted until it reach Cyprus and the love goddess Aphrodite sprung out of the sea.
Rhea was Cronus’ consort, as well as his sister. In the Orphic myth, she was also confused with Demeter (Ceres), the corn goddess. Perhaps, Demeter was another aspect of Rhea. Cronus and Rhea had 6 children, including Zeus. Like Hesiod’s Theogony, Cronus swallowed each child that Rhea bore him, except his youngest child, Zeus. Rhea hid the infant Zeus in a cave. Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband, which Cronus promptly swallowed, thinking he had swallowed his latest baby. Her name changed into Demeter, after Rhea gave birth to Zeus.
The Cretan nymphs Adrasteia and Idaea brought up Zeus, whom they fed milk of the goat Amaltheia. The Curetes had also assisted the nymphs.
How Zeus became the new supreme ruler of universe, which is a different variation to Hesiod’s account. Zeus used honey to make Cronus drunk, disgorging Zeus’ siblings, before Zeus dismembered his father, just as had Cronus done with his own father (Uranus).
It was Nyx (Night) who had advised Zeus to swallow her father/consort, Protogonus (Phanes), the first god and the original Creator. Zeus swallowed Protogonus and the entire universe that Protogonus had created, which included the other gods. With Protogonus in his belly, Zeus gained new power and knowledge, which he used to create a new universe. Whole new sun, planets, stars, mountains, land and seas were recreated. The other gods were also reborn.
Zeus ruled supreme, but he shared the world with his brothers: Poseidon received the sea and Hades got the subterranean domain of the dead, the netherworld (Underworld). Zeus ruled the sky, but they all shared the earth.
Zeus had many children from various wives and mistresses. Some of these children became important deities; among them were Athena, Hermes, Apollo and Artemis, Ares and Hephaestus. See the Olympians page.
From Demeter, Zeus, became the father of Persephone (Kore). Demeter and Persephone were living in the Dictean cave of the island Crete, where they were guarded by snakes.
(According to other writers, after Zeus had overthrown his father Cronus, Rhea or Demeter tried to escape from nuptials with her own son, by assuming the form of snake. Zeus also turned himself into a snake and raped Rhea. So that Rhea (Demeter) became the mother of Persephone.)
Zeus wanted a son to one-day rule in his place, and decided that his own daughter, Kore or Persephone, would be the mother of that son. Zeus secretly transformed himself into a snake, and lay with his daughter. Persephone became pregnant and became the mother of Dionysus (Zagreus).
Earlier Orphic writers called him Dionysus, but the Neoplatonist writers, sometimes called him Zagreus. The Neoplatonists also believed that Dionysus/Zagreus was a reincarnation of Protogonus/Phanes, whom Zeus had swallowed earlier. For the sake of convenience I will call Dionysus, son of Persephone, as Zagreus, so we can distinguish one Dionysus from the other.
While Zagreus was still an infant, Zeus placed the sceptre in his son’s tiny hand, and announced before all the gods that Zagreus will become their new ruler.
Zeus’ other wife, Hera, was jealous that Zagreus would become the next ruler of the gods; so she incited the Titans to murder the infant Zagreus (Dionysus). The Titans, who were dispossessed, became Zeus’ worse enemies, so they readily agreed.
The Titans painted their face white, and they lured the infant Zagreus from the safety of the cave, with toys, such as mirror, doll, knuckle bones, and spin-top called bull-roarer. Zagreus left the cave before he realised that he was in danger. Zagreus tried to escape, by assuming various transformations. When the Titans caught him, they tore him to pieces before they devoured him. Athena arrived in time to save the Zagreus’ heart, which she brought to her father. Athena had managed to keep the heart alive and beating, by breathing life into it.
Enraged that the Titans had attacked his son, Zeus hurled his mighty thunderbolts, blasting the Titans to ashes. From the ashes of the Titans, mankind rose.
(The dual natures of the Orphic belief come from that all men have two different natures: good and evil, earthly and spiritual (immortal), Dionysiac and Titanic. Since the Titans had consumed Dionysus, the evil nature comes from the Titans, while good comes from the Dionysiac part. To gain entry to Elysium, the initiated of the Orphic Mysteries must live a good, ascetic life in three separate incarnations. See Orphic Mysteries.)
It was still Zeus’ intention to leave the kingship of the universe to one of his sons, and that son would have been Zageus/Dionysus. Zeus swallowed Zagreus’ heart, and visited a mortal woman, named Semele, daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes, whom he seduced and made pregnant. (According to Hyginus, Zeus created mead out of Zagreus’ heart, which he gave to Semele to drink. This was how she became pregnant.)
The myth of Semele’s death and the birth of Dionysus is the same with usual myth about Dionysus. The jealous Hera duped Semele into asking for a fatal boon from Zeus, which she died, but Zeus saved the unborn child, by sewing the baby into his thigh. When it was time, Dionysus was born again, from the thigh of Zeus. (Hyginus omitted about Dionysus being born from Zeus’ thigh.)
Dionysus was a reincarnation of the god Zagreus, son of Persephone.
There is also an Orphic version, of the abduction and rape of Persephone (Kore) by Hades, and the myth of Demeter’s wandering. Several aspects of the myth of Demeter and Persephone have also changed.
Since Dionysus’ life in the Orphic myth is the same told elsewhere, the Orphic Creation ends here. But there is no doubt that when the time came, Zeus would step down from the throne; Dionysus would ascend, and be crowned.
According to the Orphic myths, six rulers had reign in heaven: Protogonus/Phanes, Nyx, Uranus, Cronus, Zeus and Dionysus. Dionysus was the reincarnation of Zagreus/Dionysus, as well as the reincarnation of Protogonus.
In Hesiod’s account about the creation, he only mentioned Cronus swallowing his children: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Poseidon and Hades, and later on Zeus swallowing the pregnant Metis.
In the Orphic myths, the cannibalism of the gods is even more evident. Cronus swallowed his children; Zeus swallowed Phanes/Protogonus and the entire universe; Zeus swallowed Metis; the Titans devoured Dionysus/Zagreus and Zeus swallowing the heart of Dionysus/Zagreus. It seemed that birth follow by death, which in turn is then followed by rebirth.
|According to the 1st century BC historian, Diodorus Siculus, Oceanus and Tethys were the source of all gods.
To Diodorus, Uranus was the first king, and not really a god at all. Uranus was the first to gather people together into the first walled city, giving them laws, and teaching to how grow their crops and store food.
Uranus was also an astronomer and astrologer, who could foresee the future, and made many predictions.
Uranus was the father of forty-five sons from different wives, but it was from his consort Titaea, that eighteen of his sons became known as the Titans. She had also bore many daughters, including Basileia and Rhea. When Titaea died, she was deified as the goddess, whose name was Ge (Gaea).
Basileia was the eldest, and had reared her brothers, which was why she was known as the Great Mother. Basileia would be identified as Hesiod’s Theia, because of her relationship with her brother and children, but Diodorus also identified her with the Phrygian goddess, Cybele. She ruled after her father’s death and deification, also as a god. She had married her brother, Hyperion, and became the mother of Helius and Selene.
Her other brothers (Titans) were jealous and feared that Hyperion would keep the royal power to himself. The Titans conspired to remove Hyperion, so they killed him and threw Helius into Eridanus River, where her son drowned. In her grief, Selene threw herself off the high city wall.
Basileia sought along the Eridanus to find her son’s body, until she dropped from exhaustion. Here, she had a vision of her son, telling her no to grieve for him or his sister, because they were transformed into the sun god and moon goddess. The Titans would also be punished for their crime.
When Basileia recovered from her swoon, she told her people about her vision, before she was seized by madness, wandering the land with her daughter’s playthings, such as the kettledrums and cymbals. One day, in a thunderstorm, she vanished, and her people assumed that she had been transformed into a goddess. They erect an altar in her honour.
After the death of Hyperion and Basileia, the kingdom was divided between her brothers, Atlas and Cronus. Atlas became the ancestor of the Atlantides, the people in western Libya, giving the name to Mount Atlas. Because Atlas was a great astronomer and astrologer, he published the book on the doctrine of the sphere. It was for this reason, why Atlas was usually seen as a man holding the heaven on his shoulders. Atlas was the father of a son, named Hesperus, and of seven daughters, known as the Pleiades.
As to Atlas’ brother, Cronus was a greedy and impious ruler, who married his sister Rhea. She bore him Zeus, one of the Olympian. Diodorus also mentioned another Zeus, who was brother of Uranus and king of Crete. Cronus was the king of Libya, Sicily and Italy.
Zeus won the kingdom in a war against his father and the Titans. Unlike his father, Zeus was virtuous ruler – wise and just, and when he died, the people claimed he became god and ruler of the universe.
At this point, Diodorus then give us a brief summary on a few different myths about Dionysus (III 63. 3-5). They are different because Diodorus believed that there are three people with the name Dionysus.
The first Dionysus, he said was the eldest – Dionysus of India. Diodorus say it was here, where he taught the Indian the cultivation of vine and making of wine.
The second Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone (III 64. 1-2). It is this Dionysus that was murdered by the Titans, like in the Orphic myth. Dionysus was the first person to yoke a plough to an ox, as well as other skills needed for agriculture.
Though earlier in Book III 62. 3-7, Diodorus says that he called Dionysus the son of Demeter, instead of Persephone. The Titans had torn the young Dionysus to pieces, and boiled his flesh, but Demeter (his mother) gathered to pieces together and he was reborn. Zeus destroyed the Titans for the murder of his son. See the Orphic Creation.
Diodorus also give a brief description of Orpheus involvement in with Dionysus and founding of the new Orphic religion.
As it can be seen in this article, Diodorus’ myth is different from Hesiod’s creation. Actually most of it was his invention. Diodorus tried to rationalize well-known myths, where made the gods mortal, who became deified only at their death, as gods or goddesses.
The most striking part is the death of Dionysus by the Titans, which is similar to the Orphic cosmogony. It is the earliest version we know of Dionysus in regarding to him being the son of Persephone and his death.