An essay written for our Greek mythology unit in English.
"Let me begin to sing of the Muses of Helikon, who abide on the great and holy Mount Helikon" (Nagy). This is the opening line of Hesiod's Theogony, in which he praises the Muses for the content of the story he had been about to tell. Hesiod would have been about to sing of the Greek creation myth, or how everything began. There are many different myths all around the world that explain how the Earth came to be, but one of the most interesting myths is the Greek story of Chaos. The story of the beginning of the world, the original beings from which everything came, and the titans and gods made up the Myth of Chaos, as told by Hesiod in the Theogony, and was used by the ancient Greeks to explain how everything was created.
The ancient Greeks had no idea how the earth and everything in it was formed, so they turned to their religion to answer this mysterious question. In the very beginning, there was only Chaos, which was simply "empty space" ("Greek Mythology and Human Origins"). The generally accepted story was that only Chaos was there, though there are some other versions of the myth. However, in most other stories, it is said that Chaos simply willed everything to appear. Chaos made Gaea, the Earth, and Eros, Love and Procreation, appear first. After they came into being, Chaos made Erebus, the darkness of the Underworld, and Nyx, Night, come into existence. Chaos then created Tartarus, a horrible place under the Earth which was eventually home to monsters and other terrible things. It did not make any other god or goddess after the first four.
The first four beings from Chaos were the oldest primordial gods and goddesses, but those four also made more beings to rule over things on earth, whether spiritual or physical. Nyx and Erebus had two children together named Hemera, Day, and Aether, the Upper Air or the Air of the Gods. Nyx also had many children by herself, including Doom, Death, Revenge, Sleep, Strife, Fate, Dreams, Old Age, and "all things that dwell in the darkness haunting mankind" (Karas and Megas). Nyx was extremely powerful, and she was able to make all of these fears of man a reality. Some of the most interesting children Nyx had were the three Fates. They determined the lives of mortals using a ball of thread and a spinning wheel. Clotho spun this thread of life, Lachesis measured each person's thread with a rod, and Atropos cut each thread with large shears, signifying the end of that life. Meanwhile, Gaea decided to create a dome over the Earth. She called him Ouranos, god of the sky. Together, they had several children, many of whom also had children. The primordial gods were extremely important to the ancient Greeks, for without them, none of the other immortal beings could have existed.
Gaea had many children with Ouranos, including the Titans, the Elder Cyclopes, and the Hecatoncheires. From the Titans came the Olympian gods, as well as many other gods and creatures. Gaea's first set of children were the twelve Titans, six girls and six boys. According to Karas and Megas, the twelve Titans were named Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus, Krios, Koios, Rhea, Theia, Phoebe, Themis, Mnemosyne, Tethys, and Kronos. They ruled the world under Kronos, the youngest, who had been made king by his mother, Gaea, after the defeat of Ouranos. Ouranos had been overpowered by Kronos, who chopped him apart with a scythe. According to John Black, his genitals had fallen into the ocean and created Aphrodite and a race of nymphs. This gave foundation on how Kronos came to rule and showed how ruthless he could be. As "The Creation Myth: How it All Began" states, Kronos eventually married his sister, Rhea, and the other Titans paired off as well. Theia and Hyperion had three children: Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn). Phoebe and Koios had Leto and Asteria. Oceanus and Tethys had the most children, having 3000 rivers, each with a (usually male) host god, as well as 3000 female Oceanids. The new generation of immortals also gave rise to a new age, which would eventually bring down the Golden Age of the Titans.
The last and youngest Titan, Kronos, had six children with his wife and sister, Rhea - three girls and three boys. These were the original Olympian gods and goddesses, named (from oldest to youngest) Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, according to Black. These six immortals were the catalyst that changed everything that the Titans knew. Because Kronos had heard a prophecy stating that one day, one of his children would defeat him and rule in his place, he ate each child that Rhea had, swallowing them whole. Rhea, angered at this, hid her last child, Zeus, from Kronos and gave him a large rock in place of Zeus. Meanwhile, the other five children grew unharmed in Kronos' stomach. Zeus, when he was ready, took a job as a cupbearer in Kronos' palace and made him throw up his siblings by giving him a cup full of a substance that caused him to vomit, as Elliott described. Because Rhea hid him away, Zeus was able to outsmart his father Kronos so that he could defeat him and his iron fist. When the Titans had been overpowered, Zeus was made ruler by his siblings since he was the one that had rescued him. He divided up the world amongst the six immortals, making himself "God of the Sky and all its phenomena" ("Greek Creation Myths"). By making himself god of the sky, Zeus made himself above everyone else (as everyone else's domains were either on or under the earth). After Zeus divided up the earth amongst him and his siblings, he created Mount Olympus as a place for the gods to live. Elliott stated that it was originally set in Thessaly. The gods, because they were higher than everything else, had a place to live that was physically higher than everything else. No mortal could reach it. All of these stories of the gods, goddesses, and even the creation of the earth was all put together by the Greek poet Hesiod, who wrote the Theogony.
Hesiod was a Boeotian rhapsodist who was believed to have lived around the 8th century BCE. He is "considered the creator of didactic poetry" ("Ancient Greece - Hesiod"). Hesiod wrote many works in his lifetime, but only three of them were completely recovered; many others are only fragments of the entire work. Hesiod's complete surviving writings consist of two epics and a short poem. "The Shield of Heracles" is a poem that describes Achilles' shield; Works and Days describes everyday life for the Greek peasants, and the Theogony tells the story of how the gods came to be. These works have helped scientists greatly when figuring out how the Greeks farmed and lived life, as well as given a better understanding to people on how their religion worked. Hesiod, in the Theogony, "... claims in the work that he (a poet, and not some mighty king) had been given the authority and responsibility of disseminating these stories by the Muses directly …" ("Ancient Greece - Hesiod - Theogony"). To him and those who believed in the gods, this gave Hesiod the right to record these stories and made him nearly a prophet. The Theogony told the story of the gods and how they came to be. It told about the creation of earth, the rise of the Titans, and the rule of the Olympians. The Theogony was "... a didactic or instructional poem describing the origins of the cosmos and the complicated and interconnected genealogies of the gods of the ancient Greeks …" ("Ancient Greece - Hesiod - Theogony"). Hesiod told of the immortals' origins and how they came to be, which may have solidified many people's beliefs in the gods, especially since Hesiod claimed he had been given this information by the Muses. Without Hesiod, we would have less of an understanding of the ancient Greeks' religion and their idea of how the earth was created.
According to the Theogony, Chaos was the very beginning of Earth, before Earth even existed. The primordial gods that formed out of Chaos had many children, and they formed all of the smaller details of Earth and existence, such as rivers, or emotions and feelings, such as old age and doom. Hesiod recorded all of this in his epic the Theogony, and this work, as well as this other work Works and Days helped explain to scientists what everyday Greek life was like. When writing the Theogony, Hesiod told the story of the beginning of the world, the original beings from which everything came, and the Titans and gods that made up the Myth of Chaos; this was the story that was used by the ancient Greeks to explain how everything was created.