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Gaia: The Greek Earth Goddess Had No Tolerance for Cruel Family Members


According to the ancient Greeks, Gaia was a primordial deity and the personification of the Earth. In fact, her name can actually be translated to mean ‘land’ or ‘earth’. In Greek mythology, Gaia was the second being to have emerged during the creation of the universe. She is perhaps best known as the mother of the Titans, though she also had countless other offspring.

According to one version of the Greek myth of creation , Gaia (also spelled Gaea), Chaos, and Eros co-existed at the beginning of time. Another myth states that these three entities emerged out of a Cosmic Egg. The best-known myth about Gaia, however, may be found in Hesiod’s Theogony, a poem describing the origin of the gods. In this literary work, Gaia is said to have arisen after Chaos. Gaia then gave birth to Ouranos, the personification of the Sky, whom she took as a consort. Gaia also gave birth (by herself) to Ourea (the Mountains) and Pontus (the Sea).

Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). Ceiling painting, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. ( Public Domain )

Gaia’s Family Expands

With Ouranos, Gaia gave birth to the Twelve Titans – Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetos, Theia, Rheia, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Thetys, and finally Cronus. In addition to the Titans, Ouranos and Gaia had two more sets of children, the Cyclopes – Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, and the Hecatoncheires (giants with 50 heads and 100 arms) – Cottus, Briareos, and Gyes. Ouranos was a cruel father, and as soon as his children were born, he kept them in Gaia’s belly. Eventually, Gaia grew tired of this, and decided to do something about it.

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She sought her children’s aid in order to punish Ouranos, but they were gripped by fear. Finally, Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, agreed to help his mother. Gaia fashioned a jagged sickle out of stone and plotted with her son. Cronus was to lie in wait for his father and to ambush him when he came to have intercourse with Gaia. This he did, and with the jagged sickle, Cronus castrated Ouranos. As the blood dripped onto Gaia, she bore the Erinyes, the Giants, and the Nymphs.

On the eastern side of Ara Pacis is a relief of Tellus Mater, the Roman earth-goddess. (Chris Nas/ CC BY SA 4.0 ) Tellus is the Roman version of Gaea.

Gaia Stands Against Cruelty

After Ouranos was overthrown, the Titans, led by Cronus, came to rule. In order to ensure that his rule would last forever, Cronus swallowed his children as soon as they were born. Eventually, Gaia could no longer tolerate her son’s cruelty, and decided to side with her grandchildren. When Cronus’ youngest son, Zeus , was born, his mother, Rhea, sought Gaia’s help to keep him safe from his father. Therefore, Gaia kept Zeus concealed from Cronus, and the Titan was given a stone in swaddling clothes to swallow instead.

When Zeus grew up, he returned, freed his siblings, and fought with the Titans for supremacy. The old gods were defeated and banished to Tartarus . Gaia was unhappy with the way Zeus treated her children, the Titans and therefore she opposed him as well.

‘The Fall of the Titans’ (1588-1590) by Cornelis van Haarlem. ( Public Domain )

She first gave birth to a tribe of giants and then to the monster Typhoeus. Both attempts to overthrow Zeus did not succeed. In the end, Gaia foretold that Zeus would be dethroned by a son borne to him by Metis. In order to avoid this fate, Zeus swallowed Metis, which resulted in the birth of Athena, who sprang out of his head fully-grown and armed.

Apart from the children and grandchildren produced through her union with Ouranos, Gaia had many other offspring as well. For instance, with Pontus, she gave birth to the sea gods.

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Central part of a large floor mosaic, from a Roman villa in Sentinum (now known as Sassoferrato, in Marche, Italy), ca. 200–250 AD. Aion, the god of eternity, is standing inside a celestial sphere decorated with zodiac signs, in between a green tree and a bare tree (summer and winter, respectively). Sitting in front of him is the mother-earth goddess, Tellus (the Roman counterpart of Gaia) with her four children, who possibly represent the four seasons. ( Public Domain )

Another interesting myth about Gaia is that regarding the birth of Erichthonius, a legendary early ruler of Athens. In this myth, Hephaestus tried to rape Athena and though he did not succeed, his semen fell on the thigh of the goddess. Having wiped the semen off her thigh with a piece of wool, Athena threw it onto the earth, and Erichthonius was born. Thus, indirectly, Gaia became the mother of this legendary king.

Birth of Erichthonius: Athena receives the baby Erichthonius from the hands of the earth mother Gaia. Hephaestus is watching the scene. Side A of an Attic red-figure stamnos, 470–460 BC. ( Public Domain )

Symbols of Gaia in Art

Finally, it may be said that in art, Gaia is normally depicted as a full-bosomed, matronly woman, which is meant to symbolize her fertility. She is often shown clothed in green, which further emphasizes this symbolism. Moreover, she is occasionally shown accompanied by fruits or the personification of the seasons, signifying her role as an agricultural goddess.

‘Victory, Janus, Chronos, and Gaea’ (1532-1534) by Giulio Romano. ( Public Domain )


Family Member/s

    (Mother) (brother/husband)† (Sister) (Brother) (Lover/Brother) (Lover/Son) (relatives) † (Children) (son) † (Son) † (Daughter) (Son) † (Son) † (Son) † (Son) (Son) †
  • Cottus (son) (Step-daughter/grand-daughter) (Step daughters/Grand-daughters) † (Grandson)† (Grandson)† (Grandson)† (Granddaughter)† (Granddaughter) (Granddaughter) (Grandson)† (Grand-daughter) (Grand-daughter) (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grand-daughter)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson) (Great-grand-daughter) (Great-grand-daughter)† (Great-grandson)† (Great-grandson) (Great-grandson)† (Great-grand-daughter-in-law)† (Great-great-grandson)† (Great-great-grandson)† (great-great-granddaughter)† (Adoptive great-great-granddaughter) † (great-great-grandson)

Loyalties

Current status

Location


GENEALOGICAL LISTING

OFFSPRING IMMORTAL

[1.1] PHAETHOUSA, LAMPETIA (by Neaira) (Homer Odyssey 12.127)
[1.2] PHAETHOUSA, LAMPETIA (Apollonius Rhodius 4.965, Ovid Metamorphoses 1.751, Nonnus Dionysiaca 27.189)
[2.1] PHAETHON, THE HELIADES (Philoxenus of Cythera Frag 834, Pausanias 2.3.2, Apollonius Rhodius 4.598, Quintus Smyraneus 5.300, Diodorus Siculus 5.23.2)
[2.2] PHAETHON, THE HELIADES (by Klymene) (Hyginus Fabulae 153, Ovid Metamorphoses 1.751, Nonnus Dionysiaca 27.189)
[3.1] KIRKE (by Perseis) (Homer Odyssey 10.134, Hesiod Theogony 956, Apollonius Rhodius 3.311, Apollodorus 1.80, Hyginus Fabulae 156, Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.19)
[3.2] KIRKE (Homer's Epigrams XIV, Hyginus Fabulae 199, Ovid Metamorphoses 13.898, Valerius Flaccus 7.210)
[4.1] PASIPHAE (by Perseis) (Apollodorus 1.80, Hyginus Fabulae 156, Cicero De Natura Deor. 3.19)
[4.2] PASIPHAE (by Krete) (Diodorus Siculus 4.60.4)
[4.3] PASIPHAE (Apollonius Rhodius 3.997, Antoninus Liberalis 41, Hyginus Fabulae 40, Ovid Metamorphoses 9.737, Seneca Phaedra 112)
[5.1] SELENE (Euripides Phoenicians 175, Nonnus Dionysiaca 44.198)
[6.1] THE KHARITES (by Aigle) (Pausanias 9.35.1, Suidas 'Aigles Kharites')
[7.1] GORGO AIX (Hyginus Astronomica 2.13)
[8.1] THE HORAI x4 (by Selene) (Quintus Smyrnaeus 10.334)
[8.2] THE HORAI x4 (Nonnus Dionysiaca 12.1)
[8.3] THE HORAI x12 (Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.490)
[9.1] ASTRIS (by Klymene or Keto) (Nonnus Dionysiaca 17.269 & 27.189)
[10.1] THE TELKHINES or KORYBANTES (by Athena) (Strabo 14.1.18)
[11.1] IKHNAIE (Lycophron Alexandra 128)

OFFSPRING MORTAL

KINGDOM OF ELIS (Southern Greece)

[1.1] AUGEIAS (Apollodorus 2.88, Pausanias 5.1.9, Apollonius Rhodius 1.172)
[1.2] AUGEIAS (by Nausidame) (Hyginus Fabulae 14)

KINGDOM OF KORINTHOS (Southern Greece)

[1.1] ALOIOS (Pausanias 2.1.1, Pausanias 2.3.9)

KINGDOM OF ANDROS (Greek Aegean)

[1.1] THERSANON (by Leukothoe) (Hyginus Fabulae 14)

KINGDOM OF RHODES (Greek Aegean)

[1.1] THE HELIADAI x7 (by Rhode) (Pindar Olympian 7 ep3-ep4)
[1.2] THE HELIADAI x7 (OKHIMOS, KERKAPHOS, MAKAR, AKTIS, TENAGES, TRIOPAS, KANDALOS, ELEKTRYONE)
(by Rhodos) (Diodorus Siculus 5.56.3)
[1.3] THE HELIADAI x7 (KERKAPHOS) (Strabo 14.2.8)
[1.4] KAMIROS (Hyginus Fabulae 275)
[2.1] AITHON (Suidas 'Aithon')

KINGDOMS KOLKHIS & TAUROS (Black Sea)

[1.1] AEETES (by Perseis) (Homer Odyssey 10.134, Hesiod Theogony 956, Apollonius Rhodius 3.311, Apollodorus 1.80, Hyginus Fabulae 156, Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.19, Seneca Medea 570)
[1.2] AEETES, PERSES (Diodorus Siculus 4.45.1, Hyginus Fabulae 27)
[2.1] PHASIS (by Okyrhoe) (Pseudo-Plutarch On Rivers 5)


Percy Jackson and the Olympians

The Battle of the Labyrinth

Gaea is mentioned by Annabeth Chase in the book when Percy Jackson battles her son, Antaeus (also a son of Poseidon), in an arena deep within the Labyrinth. At first Percy is unable to harm him, because any wound he receives is instantly covered by sand and healed by Gaea's power. Percy is able to defeat him by causing him to be disconnected with the Earth, baiting Antaeus to climb up some chains hanging from the ceiling after Percy. Percy wrapped him in the chains and then stabbed him, causing him to turn to dust with his mother unable to protect him.

A river nymph also mentions her when she tells Percy that the area around her river, including Geryon's stables, were once part of the ocean when only Gaea and Ouranos reigned. This references the First Age of the world, before the Titans ruled.


SOURCES

GREEK

  • Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
  • Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C. - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C. - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C. - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
  • Pindar, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric III Ibycus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Lyric B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Libation Bearers - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
  • Theocritus, Idylls - Greek Idyllic C3rd B.C. - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C. - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C. - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D. - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
  • Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd A.D.
  • Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D. - Greek Epic C4th A.D. - Greek Epic C5th A.D.

ROMAN

    - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
  • Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C. - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D. - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D. - Latin Epic C1st A.D. - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
  • Apuleius, The Golden Ass - Latin Novel C2nd A.D.

BYZANTINE

OTHER SOURCES

Other references not currently quoted here: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides (only partially quoted).


Gaia: The Greek Earth Goddess Had No Tolerance for Cruel Family Members - History

I see that applies very often.

Perhaps it’s requisite for the job.

Hey. Mark Ruffalo. no one was listening to the failed Golden Globe Awards fiasco. period. The initial TV viewer numbers from Nielson are dismal across the board. You folks brought this on yourselves. the American people have no use for hate America scum & vermin like yourself.

Wonder what $$ amount he received to spew this demonic occultism?

I used to think him playing a ‘slow’ character was great
acting.

If you told him the increase in population is the most dangerous thing, he would tell you we need more abortions. Liberal Logic demands it. In the end nature will do what nature does with or without human help.

I just checked his profile on the IMDB, as I did not recall seeing anything featuring him. Looks like I haven’t missed out on much, lol.

In other words, eliminate the industrial civilization that we have, and destroy the country because of slavery and some people don’t want to get the vaccine and then Whitey is blamed for it.

Another millionaire hollyweird Libtard that Probly doesn’t know what it’s like to do his own grocery shopping or pump his own gas. Not to mention having to hold down a 40, 50 or 60 hour a week job to put food on the table and house and cloth a family.

These people have absolutely no idea of what reality is.

GAIA WORSHIP - THE NEW PAGAN RELIGION

Anyone who has studied the global environmental movement has no doubt heard the term "Gaia". Gaia is a revival of Paganism that rejects Christianity, considers Christianity its biggest enemy, and views the Christian faith as its only obstacle to a global religion centered on Gaia worship and the uniting of all life forms around the goddess of "Mother Earth". A cunning mixture of science, paganism, eastern mysticism, and feminism have made this pagan cult a growing threat to the Christian Church. Gaia worship is at the very heart of today's environmental policy. The Endangered Species Act, The United Nation's Biodiversity Treaty and the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development are all offspring of the Gaia hypothesis of saving "Mother Earth". This religious movement, with cult-like qualities, is being promoted by leading figures and organizations such as former Vice President Albert Gore, broadcaster Ted Turner, and the United Nations and it's various NGO's. Al Gore's book "Earth in the Balance" is just one of many books that unabashedly proclaims the deity of Earth and blames the falling away from this Pagan God on the environmentally unfriendly followers of Jesus Christ. The United Nations has been extremely successful in infusing the "Green Religion" into an international governmental body that has an increasing affect and control over all of our lives.

So, what is this new cult of Gaia? It is basically a rehashed, modernized version of the paganism condemned by God in the Bible. Science, evolution theory, and a space age mentality have given it a new face, and made it sound more credible to a modern world, but it is the same paganism in all of its evils. There have been other religious movements that have presented similar revelations about the deity of a living earth, but Gaia has succeeded in uniting the environmental movement, the new age movement, Eastern religions, and even the leaders of many Christian denominations behind a bastardized version of paganism where the others weren't able to.

The Gaia hypothesis can be credited to James Lovelock. Lovelock worked for NASA during the 1960's as a consultant to the "life on Mars" Viking spacecraft project. Lovelock's theory claims that the earth's "biota", tightly coupled with its environment, act as a single, self regulating living system in such a way as to maintain the conditions that are suitable for life. This living system, he believed, was the result of a meta-life form that occupied our planet billions of years ago and began a process of transforming this planet into its own substance. All of the lifeforms on this planet, according to Lovelock, are a part of Gaia - a part of one spirit goddess that sustains life on earth. Since this transformation into a living system, he theorizes, the interventions of Gaia have brought about the evolving diversity of living creatures on planet Earth. From Lovelock's perspective in space he saw not a planet, but a self-evolving and self-regulating living system. His theory presents earth not as the rock that it is, but as a living being. He named this being Gaia, after the Greek goddess that was once believed to have drawn the living world forth from Chaos.

The idea of Earth as a living, divine spirit is not a new one. Plato said "We shall affirm that the cosmos, more than anything else, resembles most closely that living Creature of which all other living creatures, severally or genetically, are portion a living creature which is fairest of all and in ways most perfect." As today's version of paganism, Gaia is eagerly accepted by the new age movement and fits neatly into eastern mysticism, but science was needed to gather in the evolutionists and science-minded humanists. For these people, Gaia was made palatable by Lovelock's Daisyworld model, a mathematical and scientific theory designed to refute the criticisms of Darwin's groupies. Just as evolution eliminates the need for a divine creator, the Daisyworld model provided a theory of evolving life on earth that incorporates natural selection with a world that is interconnected. It eliminates a personal yet separate God, and makes humans a part of the divine spirit that is Gaia.

More appealing to the New Agers and the interfaith movement is the mystical side of Gaia. They can easily relate to the belief that humans can have mystical experiences or a spiritual relationship with Gaia. A connectedness to nature and the belief that humans are a part of this collective consciousness called Gaia appeals to them. Gaia teaches that an "Earth spirit", goddess, or planetary brain must be protected. It is this belief that fuels the environmental movement, sustainable development, and a global push for the return of industrialized nations to a more primitive way of life. Just as with the evolutionists, the humanists, and the other pagan religions of the world, Gaia has named Christianity as the obstacle to human evolution and our spiritual destiny. A document mandated by the U.N.-sponsored Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Biodiversity Assessment, explicitly refers to Christianity as a faith that has set humans apart from nature and stripped nature of its sacred qualities. The document states:

Conversion to Christianity has therefore meant an abandonment of an affinity with the natural world for many forest dwellers, peasants, fishers all over the world . The northeastern hilly states of India bordering China and Myanmar supported small scale, largely autonomous shifting cultivator societies until the 1950's. These people followed their own religious traditions that included setting apart between 10% and 30% of the landscape as sacred groves and ponds. 1

While condemning Christianity as the root of all ecological evil, the document goes on to praise Buddhism and Hinduism as they "did not depart as drastically from the perspective of humans as members of a community of beings including other living and non-living elements". Non-Christian religions are definitely favored by the global government as good stewards of Mother Earth.

Members of this "Green Religion" will all agree that the Earth is in a crisis state and this ecological emergency is the result of Christian traditions. They believe that the Judeo Christian belief that God assigned man to rule over the earth has caused us to exploit and abuse it. Monotheism, they assert, has separated humans from their ancient connection to the earth, and to reverse this trend governments, the media, our education system, artists, and other areas of influence must revive earth-centered myth and reconnect us to Earth's spirit. Al Gore, in his book Earth in the Balance, expounds on this view:

"The richness and diversity of our religious tradition throughout history is a spiritual resource long ignored by people of faith, who are often afraid to open their minds to teachings first offered outside their own systems of belief. But the emergence of a civilization in which knowledge moves freely and almost instantaneously through the world has spurred a renewed investigation of the wisdom distilled by all faiths. This panreligious perspective may prove especially important where our global civilization's responsibility for the earth is concerned." (pp. 258-259)

Gore praises the Eastern religions and new age spiritualism, while blaming Christianity for the elimination of the ancient goddess religion, and calls for a new spiritual relationship between man and earth.

"The spiritual sense of our place in nature predates Native American cultures increasingly it can be traced to the origins of human civilization. A growing number of anthropologists and archaeomythologists, such as Marija Gimbutas and Riane Esler argue that the prevailing ideology of belief in prehistoric Europe and much of the world was based on the worship of a single earth goddess, who was assumed to be the fount of all life and who radiated harmony among all living things. Much of the evidence for the existence of this primitive religion comes from the many thousands of artifacts uncovered in ceremonial sites. These sites are so widespread that they seem to confirm the notion that a goddess religion was ubiquitous through much of the world until the antecedents of today's religions, most of which still have a distinctly masculine orientation. swept out of India and the Near East, almost obliterating belief in the goddess. The last vestige of organized goddess worship was eliminated by Christianity as late as the fifteenth century in Lithuania."

If Gore had read the Bible he would know exactly why Christians will not open their mind to these other beliefs as he suggests. The Bible very clearly warns us not to.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." Colossians 2:6-10

Gore also might want to read Romans 1:18 - 25:

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator - who is forever praised. Amen.

When men began to worship the creation instead of the Creator, the wrath of God was revealed. As societies begin again to turn from the truth of the creation and worship nature, "Mother Earth", or any other deceiving spirit, the evil and deception in their new religion will be made evident by God's response.

Romans 1:26 - 32

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful they invent ways of doing evil they disobey their parents they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Our societies today are becoming a picture of this wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. As the Christian church is brought into the fold by organizations such as the National Council of Churches and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, we can be sure the results will be a further decline into immorality and chaos. There is a drive by these organizations and others to meld Earth worship with Christianity in the name of tolerance, biodiversity, sustainability, and the preservation of Mother Earth. It is a battle for Christianity and an attack on biblical truth. When this pagan agenda reaches your church or your community, how will you respond? Will you speak up for the truth of God or will you exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a global compromise that is leading countless people into spiritual darkness? As followers of Jesus Christ we know the truth and must boldly proclaim it. The opposition is fierce and to those who don't know the joy of a relationship with God, it is an appealing proposition. It is accepting of everything, intolerant of nothing, it deifies the environmentalist, worships the feminist, eliminates all responsibility for sin, and frees you to embrace your sinful nature. The truth of the Bible must first be taught in our churches, and then shared with the world. As churches begin to fall away from the faith and corrupt the Word of God, it is left to Bible-believing Christians to stand up for the truth, contend for our faith, and offer to the world an alternative to God's wrath. If we are ashamed of our faith, if we compromise our beliefs, and if we hide in our churches and ignore what is going on outside of them, we are aiding in our own destruction and countless souls will be lost because of our complacency, selfishness, and inaction.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of god, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, but the power of god, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." II Timothy 1:6-8


The Pleiades in Asian Cosmologies

The first astronomical mention of the star cluster was in the Chinese Annals of roughly 2350 BC and was referred to as the Blossom Stars or Flower Stars .

The sprawling Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb complex of the Hongwu Emperor, founder of the Ming Dynasty. Located near Nanjing in Eastern China, when viewed from the air, the tomb complex echos the arrangement of the visible Pleiadian stars. According to author Wayne Herschel , this geoformation is a star map. Called the “treasure mound,” the tomb is said to hold “great cosmic secrets beyond gold treasure.”

In Japan, Subaru, or the Pleiades, is more than the name of an auto manufacturer — it also relates to the cultural value of “harmonious grouping,” or in modern parlance, “teamwork,” a characteristic of samurai and shogun societies.

According to myth, Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess quarreled with her brother Susanowo, the embodiment of the power of nature. Intimidated, she hid in a cave. The world went dark, and to entice her back out, her jewels were hung from a sacred tree nearby — eventually, she left the cave and returned to the sky so the earth would once again be nourished by her light. Amaterasu’s jewels were associated with the Subaru, or Pleiades cluster. The story is an allegory — just as the sun becomes low in the sky in winter, the Subaru ‘jewels’ can be seen as a reminder that the sun will return in spring.

Hindu mythology holds that the seven sisters, called the Krrtika , were married to the Rishis , the seven sages that made up the stars of the Great Dipper. All lived together happily in the northern sky.

One day Agni, the god of fire, saw the Krrtika and fell in love. He knew they belonged to the Rishis, and despondent, he wandered in a forest trying to forget them. But the little goddess Svahi, embodied by the star Zeta Reticuli, saw Agni and was smitten. She disguised herself as the Krrtika and offered herself to him — he believed he had won the Rishis’ wives.

Svaha became pregnant, and when her child was born, a rumor spread that six of the Rishis’ wives were somehow the baby’s mother(s). When the seven Rishis heard this, they divorced their wives, but one, Arundhati (the star Alcor) refused to leave her husband. The other six wives became the stars of the Pleiades.

In Vedic astrology, the degrees of 26 Aries to 10 Taurus are ruled by the Krittika, or Pleiades. One born under the influences of the sisters is said to be fiery, warlike, and adventurous. Under an aggressive exterior, the natives have a deeply nurturing quality and have great capacities to support others.

Sunset at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, USA. Noise added.


THE BIRTH OF APHRODITE

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21 - 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[Cicero enumurates a number of rival cult traditions about Aphrodite sourced from different regions:] The first Venus [Aphrodite] is the daughter of Caelus (Sky) [Ouranos] and Dies (Day) [Hemera] I have seen her temple at Ellis. The second was engendered form the sea-foam, and as we are told became the mother by Mercurius [Hermes] of the second Cupidus (Love) [Eros]. The third is the daughter of Jupiter [Zeus] and Dione, who wedded Vulcanus [Hephaistos], but who is said to have been the mother of Anteros by Mars [Ares]. The fourth we obtained from Syria and Cyprus, and is called Astarte it is recorded that she married Adonis."

I. BORN OF THE SEA-FOAM

The most common version of the birth of Aphrodite describes her born in sea-foam from the castrated genitals of the sky-god Ouranos.

Hesiod, Theogony 176 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Ouranos (the Sky) came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Gaia (the Earth) spreading himself full upon her. Then the son [Kronos] from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him . . . and so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Kythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Kypros, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and Aphrogeneia (the foam-born) because she grew amid the foam, and well-crowned (eustephanos) Kythereia because she reached Kythera, and Kyprogenes because she was born in billowy Kypros, and Philommedes (Genital-Loving) because sprang from the members. And with her went Eros (Love), and comely Himeros (Desire) followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods,--the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness."

Homeric Hymn 6 to Aphrodite (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"To Sea-set Kypros the moist breath of the western wind (Zephryos) wafted her [Aphrodite] over the waves of the loud-moaning sea in soft foam, and there the gold-filleted Horai (Seasons) welcomed her joyously. They clothed her with heavenly garments: on her head they put a fine, well-wrought crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of orichalc and precious gold, and adorned her with golden necklaces over her soft neck and snow-white breasts, jewels which the gold-filleted Horai wear themselves whenever they go to their father's house to join the lovely dances of the gods. And when they had fully decked her, they brought her to the gods, who welcomed her when they saw her, giving her their hands. Each one of them prayed that he might lead her home to be his wedded wife, so greatly were they amazed at the beauty of violet-crowned Kythereia."

The Anacreontea, Fragment 57 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"[Aphrodite] roaming over the waves like sea-lettuce, moving her soft-skinned body in her voyage over the white calm sea, she pulls the breakers along her path. Above her rosy breast and below her soft neck a great wave divides her skin. In the midst of the furrow, like a lily wound among violets, Kypris shines out from the clam sea. Over the silver on dancing dolphins ride guileful Eros and laughing Himeros (Desire), and the chorus of bow-backed fish plunging in the waves sports with Paphia where she swims."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 55. 4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Aphrodite, they say, as she was journeying [after her birth in the sea] from Kytherea to Kypros and dropped anchor near Rhodes, was prevented from stopping there by the sons of Poseidon, who were arrogant and insolent men whereupon the goddess, in her wrath, brought a madness upon them."

Birth of Aphrodite and the Ichthyocentaurs, Greco-Roman mosaic from Zeugma C1st-2nd A.D., Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 11. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the throne of Zeus at Olympia:] is Eros (Love) receiving Aphrodite as she rises from the sea, and Aphrodite is being crowned by Peitho (Persuasion)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 1. 8 :
"[Depicted on the base of the statue of Poseidon at Korinthos:] Thalassa (Sea) holding up the young Aphrodite, and on either side are the nymphs called Nereides."

Aelian, On Animals 14. 28 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite delighted to be with Nerites in the sea [after her birth] and loved him. And when the fated time arrived, at which, at the bidding of [Zeus] the Father of the gods, Aphrodite also had to be enrolled among the Olympians, I have heard that she ascended and wished to bring her companion and play-fellow. But the story goes that he refused."

Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite . . . sea-born (pontogenes) . . . Kypros thy famed mother fair."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 72 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Out of the sea was rising lovely-crowned Kypris, foam-blossoms still upon her hair and round her hovered smiling witchingly Himeros (Desire), and danced the Kharites (Graces) lovely-tressed."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 521 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"I [Aphrodite] should find some favour with the sea, for in its holy depths in days gone by from sea-foam I was formed, and still from foam I take my name in Greece."

Ovid, Heroides 7. 59 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"For 'twas from the sea, in Cytherean waters, so runs the tale, that the mother of the Amores (Loves) [Erotes], undraped, arose."

Seneca, Phaedra 274 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Thou goddess, born of the cruel sea, who art called mother of both Cupides (Loves) [i.e. Eros and Himeros or Anteros]."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 4. 28 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"The goddess [Aphrodite] who was sprung from the dark-blue depths of the sea and was nurtured by the foam from the frothing waves."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 6 ff :
"The clouds parted, and Caelus (Heaven) [i.e. Ouranos] admitted his daughter."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 1. 86 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Did not the water conceive Aphrodite by a heavenly husbandry [Ouranos], and bring her forth from the deeps?"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7. 222 ff :
"Kronos . . . cut his father's loins with unmanning sickle until the foam got a mind and made the water shape itself into a selfperfected birth, delivered of Aphrodite from the sea?"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 43 ff :
"He [Kronos] cut off his father's [Ouranos'] male plowshare, and sowed the teeming deep with seed on the unsown back of the daughterbegetting sea (Thalassa)."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 435 ff :
"When the fertile drops from Ouranos, spilt with a mess of male gore, hand given infant shape to the fertile foam and brought forth Paphia [Aphrodite]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 435 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Kypros, godwelcoming island of the fine-feathered Erotes (Loves), which bears the name of Kypris the self-born [Aphrodite] . . . Paphos, garlanded harbour of the softhaired Erotes (Loves), landingplace of Aphrodite when she came up out of the waves, where is the bridebath of the seaborn goddess."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 20 ff :
"Before Kypros and the Isthmian city of Korinthos, she [i.e. the city of Beroe or Beruit in Phoinikia] first received Kypris [Aphrodite] within her welcoming portal, newly born from the brine when the water impregnated from the furrow of Ouranos was delivered of deepsea Aphrodite when without marriage, the seed plowed the flood with male fertility, and of itself shaped the foam into a daughter, and Phusis (Nature) was the midwife--coming up with the goddess there was that embroidered strap which ran round her loins like a belt, set about the queen's body in a girdle of itself . . . Beroe first received Kypris and above the neighbouring roads, the meadows of themselves put out plants of grass and flowers on all sides in the sandy bay the beach became ruddy with clumps of roses . . .
There, as soon as she was seen on the neighbouring harbourage, she brought forth wild Eros (Love) . . . without a nurse, and [Eros] beat on the closed womb of his unwedded mother then a hot one even before birth, he shook his light wings and with a tumbling push opened the gates of birth." [N.B. In this passage Aphrodite is born pregnant with Eros who she births on the day of her own birth.]

For MORE information on the castration of Ouranos see OURANOS

II. DAUGHTER OF ZEUS & DIONE

A less common version makes Aphrodite a daughter of Zeus and the Okeanis Titanis Dione. Aphrodite and Dione both had temples in the sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona.

Homer, Iliad 5. 370 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Aphrodite wounded at Troy by Diomedes fled to her mother Dione on Olympos :] Bright Aphrodite fell at the knees of her mother [on Olympos], Dione, who gathered her daughter into her arms' fold and stroked her with her hand and called her by name and spoke to her : &lsquoWho now of the Ouranian gods, dear child, has done such things to you, rashly, as if you were caught doing something wicked?&rsquo . . . Dione the shining among divinities . . . with both hands stroked away from her arm the ichor, so that the arm was made whole again and the strong pains rested."

Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos threatens to return Aphrodite to her father Zeus when he learns of her adultery :] &lsquoAphrodite had Zeus for father . . . my cunning chains shall hold them both fast till her father Zeus has given me back all the betrothal gifts I bestowed on him for his wanton daughter.&rsquo"

Euripides, Helen 1098 ff (trans. Vellacott) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"We pray to you, child of Dione, Aphrodite."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 13 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"By Dione he [Zeus] had Aphrodite."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 193 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Kypris [Aphrodite] fled like the wind from the pursuit of her lascivious father [Zeus], that she might not see an unhallowed bedfellow in her own begetter, Zeus."

For MORE information on this Titan-goddess see DIONE

III. HATCHED FROM AN EGG (SYRIAN ASHTARTE)

Aspects of this story from the Syrian story of the birth of Ashtarte were adopted by the Greeks. Doves and fish remain sacred to her, and the minor Greek love-gods Eros and Helene are described as egg-born.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 197 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Into the Euphrates River an egg of wonderful size is said to have fallen, which the fish rolled to the bank. Doves sat on it, and when it was heated, it hatched out Venus [Ashtarte, the Syrian Aphrodite], who was later called the Syrian goddess. Since she excelled the rest in justice and uprightness, by a favour granted by Jove [Zeus], the fish were put among the number of the stars, and because of this the Syrians do not eat fish or doves, considering them as gods."

APHRODITE & THE WAR OF THE GIANTS

In Greek vase paintings depicting the Gigantomakhia, Aphrodite is sometimes depicted driving the chariot of Ares into battle.

Strabo, Geography 11. 2. 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In Phanagoreia [in Mysia] there is a notable temple of Aphrodite Apatouros (Deceiver). Critics derive the etymology of the epithet of the goddess by adducing a certain myth, according to which the Gigantes attacked the goddess there but she called upon Herakles for help and hid him in a cave, and then, admitting the Gigantes one by one, gave them over to Herakles to be murdered through &lsquotreachery&rsquo (apate)."

For MORE information on the War of the Giants see GIGANTES

APHRODITE & THE GIANT TYPHOEUS

Aphrodite was identified with the Syrian goddess Ashtarte. The Greeks invented the story of her flight to Egypt to explain why the goddess was worshipped in the form of a fish or why this fish was sacred to her in the country.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 30 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Fishes [constellation Pisces] . . . Diognetus Erythraeus says that once Venus [Aphrodite] and her son Cupid [Eros] came in Syria to the river Euphrates [when Typhon attacked Olympos]. There Typhon, of whom we have already spoken, suddenly appeared. Venus and her son threw themselves into the river and there changed their forms to fishes, and by so doing this escaped danger. So afterwards the Syrians, who are adjacent to these regions, stopped eating fish, fearing to catch them lest with like reason they seem either to oppose the protection of the gods, or to entrap the gods themselves."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 319 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Typhoeus, issuing from earth's lowest depths, struck terror in those heavenly hearts, and they all turned their backs and fled, until they found refuge in Aegyptus and the seven-mouthed Nilus . . . Typhoeus Terrigena (Earthborn) even there pursued them and the gods concealed themselves in spurious shapes . . . Venus [Aphrodite] became a fish."

Ovid, Fasti 2. 458 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Piscis, heaven's horses. They say that you and your brother (for your stars gleam together) ferried two gods on your backs. Once Dione [Aphrodite], in flight from terrible Typhon (when Jupiter [Zeus] armed in heaven's defence), reached the Euphrates with tiny Cupidos [Eros] in tow and sat by the hem of Palestine's stream. Poplars and reeds dominated the tops of the banks willows, too, offered hope of concealment. While she hid, the wood roared with wind. She pales with fear, and believes a hostile band approaches. As she clutched son to breast, she cries : &lsquoTo the rescue, Nymphae, and bring help to two divinities.&rsquo No delay she leapt. Twin fish went underneath them for which, you see, the present stars are named. Hence timid Syrians think it wrong to serve up this species they defile no mouths with fish."

For MORE information on this giant see TYPHOEUS

APHRODITE & THE FEASTS OF THE GODS

Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 186 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"[Apollon journeys to] Olympos, to the house of Zeus, to join the gathering of the other gods: then straightway the undying gods think only of the lyre and song, and all the Mousai (Muses) together, voice sweetly answering voice . . . Meanwhile the rich-tressed Kharites (Graces) and cheerful Horai (Seasons) dance with Harmonia (Harmony) and Hebe (Youth) and Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, holding each other by the wrist."

Anacreon, Fragment 357 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C6th B.C.) :
"Lord [Dionysos], with whom Eros the subduer and the blue-eyed Nymphai, and radiant Aphrodite play, as you haunt the lofty mountain peaks."

Plato, Symposium 178 (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods . . . [during which Penia seduced the god Poros and bore Eros.] And because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he [Eros] was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 165 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Minerva [Athena] is said to have been the first to make pipes from deer bones and to have come to the banquet of the gods to play. Juno [Hera] and Venus [Aphrodite] made fun of her because she was grey-eyed and puffed out her cheeks, so mocked her playing and called her ugly."

APHRODITE & THE CREATION OF PANDORA

Aphrodite bestowed her gifts on Pandora the first woman, commissioned by Zeus to punish mankind for Prometheus' theft of fire.

Hesiod, Works and Days 60 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"He [Zeus] bade famous Hephaistos make haste and mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face and Athene to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web and golden Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs. And he charged Hermes the Guide, Argeiphontes, to put in her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature. So he ordered. And they obeyed the lord Zeus Kronion . . . [and after her creation they] named this woman Pandora (All-Gifts), because all they who dwelt on Olympus gave each a gift, a plague to men who eat bread."

For MORE information on the first woman see PANDORA

Ares, creation of Pandora, Aphrodite and Poseidon, Athenian red-figure calyx krater C5th B.C., British Museum

APHRODITE & THE BIRTH OF PRIAPUS

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 6. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Now the ancients record in their myths that Priapos was the son of Dionysos and Aphrodite and they present a plausible argument for this lineage for men when under the influence of wine find the members of their bodies tense and inclined to the pleasures of love."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 31. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Priapos] called by them [the people of Lampsakos] a son of Dionysos and Aphrodite."

Suidas s.v. Priapus (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Priapos: was conceived from Zeus and Aphrodite but Hera in a jealous rage laid hands by a certain trickery on the belly of Aphrodite and readied a shapeless and ugly and over-meaty babe to be born. His mother flung it onto a mountain a shepherd raised it up. He had genitals [rising up] above his butt."

For MORE information on this god see PRIAPOS

THE CONTEST OF APHRODITE & HERMES AT THE PYTHIAN GAMES

The gods were sometimes described as competing at the founding of the Olympic and Pythian Games, the latter including musical contests.

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 7 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Apollon organised funeral games [the Pythia] in honour of Python [the dragon of Delphoi] Hermes contributed to it, like Aphrodite she won and accepted as prize a zither which she gave later as a gift to Alexandros [Paris]."

THE WEAVING-CONTEST OF APHRODITE & ATHENA

Aphrodite challenged Athena to a contest in weaving. The goddess of love proved to be totally inept in the art and was easily defeated by Athena. A brief extract from this tale, as told by Nonnus, follows:--


Contents

While there were few concepts universal to all the Greek peoples, some common beliefs were shared by many.

Theology

Ancient Greek theology was polytheistic, based on the assumption that there were many gods and goddesses, as well as a range of lesser supernatural beings of various types. There was a hierarchy of deities, with Zeus, the king of the gods, having a level of control over all the others, although he was not almighty. Some deities had dominion over certain aspects of nature. For instance, Zeus was the sky-god, sending thunder and lightning, Poseidon ruled over the sea and earthquakes, Hades projected his remarkable power throughout the realms of death and the Underworld, and Helios controlled the sun. Other deities ruled over abstract concepts for instance Aphrodite controlled love. All significant deities were visualized as "human" in form, although often able to transform themselves into animals or natural phenomena. [1]

While being immortal, the gods were certainly not all-good or even all-powerful. They had to obey fate, known to Greek mythology as the Moirai, [2] which overrode any of their divine powers or wills. For instance, in mythology, it was Odysseus' fate to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, and the gods could only lengthen his journey and make it harder for him, but they could not stop him.

The gods acted like humans and had human vices. [3] They would interact with humans, sometimes even spawning children with them. At times certain gods would be opposed to others, and they would try to outdo each other. In the Iliad, Aphrodite, Ares and Apollo support the Trojan side in the Trojan War, while Hera, Athena and Poseidon support the Greeks (see theomachy).

Some gods were specifically associated with a certain city. Athena was associated with the city of Athens, Apollo with Delphi and Delos, Zeus with Olympia and Aphrodite with Corinth. But other gods were also worshipped in these cities. Other deities were associated with nations outside of Greece Poseidon was associated with Ethiopia and Troy, and Ares with Thrace.

Identity of names was not a guarantee of a similar cultus the Greeks themselves were well aware that the Artemis worshipped at Sparta, the virgin huntress, was a very different deity from the Artemis who was a many-breasted fertility goddess at Ephesus. Though the worship of the major deities spread from one locality to another, and though most larger cities boasted temples to several major gods, the identification of different gods with different places remained strong to the end.

Our ancient sources for Greek religion tell us a good deal about cult but very little about creed, in no small measure because the Greeks in general considered what one believed to be much less importance than what one did. [4]

Afterlife

The Greeks believed in an underworld where the spirits of the dead went after death. One of the most widespread areas of this underworld was ruled over by Hades, a brother of Zeus, and was itself also known as Hades (originally called 'the place of Hades'). Other well known realms are Tartarus, a place of torment for the damned, and Elysium, a place of pleasures for the virtuous. In the early Mycenaean religion all the dead went to Hades, but the rise of mystery cults in the Archaic age led to the development of places such as Tartarus and Elysium.

A few Greeks, like Achilles, Alcmene, Amphiaraus Ganymede, Ino, Melicertes, Menelaus, Peleus, and a great number of those who fought in the Trojan and Theban wars, were considered to have been physically immortalized and brought to live forever in either Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed, heaven, the ocean, or beneath the ground. Such beliefs are found in the most ancient of Greek sources, such as Homer and Hesiod. This belief remained strong even into the Christian era. For most people at the moment of death there was, however, no hope of anything but continued existence as a disembodied soul. [5]

Some Greeks, such as the philosophers Pythagoras and Plato, also embraced the idea of reincarnation, though this was only accepted by a few. Epicurus taught that the soul was simply atoms which were dissolved at death, so one ceased to exist on dying.

Mythology

Greek religion had an extensive mythology. It consisted largely of stories of the gods and how they interacted with humans. Myths often revolved around heroes and their actions, such as Heracles and his twelve labors, Odysseus and his voyage home, Jason and the quest for the Golden Fleece and Theseus and the Minotaur.

Many species existed in Greek mythology. Chief among these were the gods and humans, though the Titans (who predated the Olympian gods) also frequently appeared in Greek myths. Lesser species included the half-man-half-horse centaurs, the nature based nymphs (tree nymphs were dryads, sea nymphs were Nereids) and the half man, half goat satyrs. Some creatures in Greek mythology were monstrous, such as the one-eyed giant Cyclopes, the sea beast Scylla, whirlpool Charybdis, Gorgons, and the half-man, half-bull Minotaur.

There was not a set Greek cosmogony, or creation myth. Different religious groups believed that the world had been created in different ways. One Greek creation myth was told in Hesiod's Theogony. It stated that at first there was only a primordial deity called Chaos, who gave birth to various other primordial gods, such as Gaia, Tartarus and Eros, who then gave birth to more gods, the Titans, who then gave birth to the first Olympians.

The mythology largely survived and was added to in order to form the later Roman mythology. The Greeks and Romans had been literate societies, and much mythology, although initially shared orally, was written down in the forms of epic poetry (such as the Iliad, the Odyssey and the Argonautica) and plays (such as Euripides' The Bacchae and Aristophanes' The Frogs). The mythology became popular in Christian post-Renaissance Europe, where it was often used as a basis for the works of artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Rubens.

Morality

One of the most important moral concepts to the Greeks was the fear of committing hubris. Hubris constituted many things, from rape to desecration of a corpse, [6] and was a crime in the city-state of Athens. Although pride and vanity were not considered sins themselves, the Greeks emphasized moderation. Pride only became hubris when it went to extremes, like any other vice. The same was thought of eating and drinking. Anything done to excess was not considered proper. Ancient Greeks placed, for example, importance on athletics and intellect equally. In fact many of their competitions included both. Pride was not evil until it became all-consuming or hurtful to others.

Sacred texts

The Greeks had no religious texts they regarded as "revealed" scriptures of sacred origin, but very old texts including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and the Homeric hymns (regarded as later productions today), Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, and Pindar's Odes were regarded as having authority [7] and perhaps being inspired they usually begin with an invocation to the Muses for inspiration. Plato even wanted to exclude the myths from his ideal state described in the Republic because of their low moral tone.

While some traditions, such as Mystery cults, did uphold certain texts as canonic within their own cult praxis, such texts were respected but not necessarily accepted as canonic outside their circle. In this field, of particular importance are certain texts referring to Orphic cults: multiple copies, ranging from 450 BC–250 AD, have been found in various locations of the Greek world. Even the words of the oracles never turned into a sacred text. Other texts were specially composed for religious events, and some have survived within the lyric tradition although they had a cult function, they were bound to performance and never developed into a common, standard prayer form comparable to the Christian Pater Noster. An exception to this rule were the already named Orphic and Mystery rituals, which, in this, set themselves aside from the rest of the Greek religious system. Finally, some texts called ieri logi (Greek: ιεροί λόγοι ) (sacred texts) by the ancient sources, originated from outside the Greek world, or were supposedly adopted in remote times, representing yet more different traditions within the Greek belief system.

Ceremonies

The lack of a unified priestly class meant that a unified, canonic form of the religious texts or practices never existed just as there was no unified, common sacred text for the Greek belief system, there was no standardization of practices. Instead, religious practices were organized on local levels, with priests normally being magistrates for the city or village, or gaining authority from one of the many sanctuaries. Some priestly functions, like the care for a particular local festival, could be given by tradition to a certain family. To a large extent, in the absence of "scriptural" sacred texts, religious practices derived their authority from tradition, and "every omission or deviation arouses deep anxiety and calls forth sanctions". [8]

Greek ceremonies and rituals were mainly performed at altars. These were typically devoted to one or a few gods, and supported a statue of the particular deity. Votive deposits would be left at the altar, such as food, drinks, as well as precious objects. Sometimes animal sacrifices would be performed here, with most of the flesh taken for eating, and the offal burnt as an offering to the gods. Libations, often of wine, would be offered to the gods as well, not only at shrines, but also in everyday life, such as during a symposium.

One ceremony was pharmakos, a ritual involving expelling a symbolic scapegoat such as a slave or an animal, from a city or village in a time of hardship. It was hoped that by casting out the ritual scapegoat, the hardship would go with it.

Sacrifice

Worship in Greece typically consisted of sacrificing domestic animals at the altar with hymn and prayer. The altar was outside any temple building, and might not be associated with a temple at all. The animal, which should be perfect of its kind, was decorated with garlands and the like, and led in procession to the altar a girl with a basket on her head containing the concealed knife led the way. After various rituals, the animal was slaughtered over the altar. As it fell, all of the women present "[cried] out in high, shrill tones". Its blood was collected and poured over the altar. It was butchered on the spot and various internal organs, bones and other inedible parts burnt as the deity's portion of the offering, while the meat was removed to be prepared for the participants to eat the leading figures tasted it on the spot. The temple usually kept the skin to sell to tanners. That the humans got more use from the sacrifice than the deity had not escaped the Greeks, and was often the subject of humor in Greek comedy. [9]

The animals used were, in order of preference, bulls or oxen, cows, sheep (the most common sacrifice), goats, pigs (with piglets being the cheapest mammal), and poultry (but rarely other birds or fish). [10] Horses and asses are seen on some vases in the Geometric style (900–750 BC), but are very rarely mentioned in literature they were relatively late introductions to Greece, and it has been suggested that Greek preferences in this matter were established earlier. The Greeks liked to believe that the animal was glad to be sacrificed, and interpreted various behaviors as showing this. Divination by examining parts of the sacrificed animal was much less important than in Roman or Etruscan religion, or Near Eastern religions, but was practiced, especially of the liver, and as part of the cult of Apollo. Generally, the Greeks put more faith in observing the behavior of birds. [11]

For a smaller and simpler offering, a grain of incense could be thrown on the sacred fire, [12] and outside the cities farmers made simple sacrificial gifts of plant produce as the "first fruits" were harvested. [13] The libation, a ritual pouring of fluid, was part of everyday life, and libations with a prayer were often made at home whenever wine was drunk, with just a part of the cup's contents, the rest being drunk. More formal ones might be made onto altars at temples, and other fluids such as olive oil and honey might be used. Although the grand form of sacrifice called the hecatomb (meaning 100 bulls) might in practice only involve a dozen or so, at large festivals the number of cattle sacrificed could run into the hundreds, and the numbers feasting on them well into the thousands.

The evidence of the existence of such practices is clear in some ancient Greek literature, especially in Homer's epics. Throughout the poems, the use of the ritual is apparent at banquets where meat is served, in times of danger or before some important endeavor to gain the favor of the gods. For example, in Homer's Odyssey Eumaeus sacrifices a pig with prayer for his unrecognizable master Odysseus. However, in Homer's Iliad, which partly reflects very early Greek civilization, not every banquet of the princes begins with a sacrifice. [14]

These sacrificial practices share much with recorded forms of sacrificial rituals known from later. Furthermore, throughout the poem, special banquets are held whenever gods indicated their presence by some sign or success in war. Before setting out for Troy, this type of animal sacrifice is offered. Odysseus offers Zeus a sacrificial ram in vain. The occasions of sacrifice in Homer's epic poems may shed some light onto the view of the gods as members of society, rather than as external entities, indicating social ties. Sacrificial rituals played a major role in forming the relationship between humans and the divine. [15]

It has been suggested that the Chthonic deities, distinguished from Olympic deities by typically being offered the holocaust mode of sacrifice, where the offering is wholly burnt, may be remnants of the native Pre-Hellenic religion and that many of the Olympian deities may come from the Proto-Greeks who overran the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula in the late third millennium BC. [16]

Festivals

Various religious festivals were held in ancient Greece. Many were specific only to a particular deity or city-state. For example, the festival of Lykaia was celebrated in Arcadia in Greece, which was dedicated to the pastoral god Pan. Like the other Panhellenic Games, the ancient Olympic Games were a religious festival, held at the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. Other festivals centered on Greek theatre, of which the Dionysia in Athens was the most important. More typical festivals featured a procession, large sacrifices and a feast to eat the offerings, and many included entertainments and customs such as visiting friends, wearing fancy dress and unusual behavior in the streets, sometimes risky for bystanders in various ways. Altogether the year in Athens included some 140 days that were religious festivals of some sort, though varying greatly in importance.

Rites of passage

One rite of passage was the amphidromia, celebrated on the fifth or seventh day after the birth of a child. Childbirth was extremely significant to Athenians, especially if the baby was a boy.

The main Greek temple building sat within a larger precinct or temenos, usually surrounded by a peribolos fence or wall the whole is usually called a "sanctuary". The Acropolis of Athens is the most famous example, though this was apparently walled as a citadel before a temple was ever built there. The tenemos might include many subsidiary buildings, sacred groves or springs, animals dedicated to the deity, and sometimes people who had taken sanctuary from the law, which some temples offered, for example to runaway slaves. [17]

The earliest Greek sanctuaries probably lacked temple buildings, though our knowledge of these is limited, and the subject is controversial. A typical early sanctuary seems to have consisted of a tenemos, often around a sacred grove, cave, rock (baetyl) or spring, and perhaps defined only by marker stones at intervals, with an altar for offerings. Many rural sanctuaries probably stayed in this style, but the more popular were gradually able to afford a building to house a cult image, especially in cities. This process was certainly under way by the 9th century, and probably started earlier. [18]

The temple interiors did not serve as meeting places, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them, at altars within the wider precinct of the sanctuary, which might be large. As the centuries passed both the inside of popular temples and the area surrounding them accumulated statues and small shrines or other buildings as gifts, and military trophies, paintings and items in precious metals, effectively turning them into a type of museum.

Some sanctuaries offered oracles, people who were believed to receive divine inspiration in answering questions put by pilgrims. The most famous of these by far was the female priestess called the Pythia at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and that of Zeus at Dodona, but there were many others. Some dealt only with medical, agricultural or other specialized matters, and not all represented gods, like that of the hero Trophonius at Livadeia.

Cult images

The temple was the house of the deity it was dedicated to, who in some sense resided in the cult image in the cella or main room inside, normally facing the only door. The cult image normally took the form of a statue of the deity, typically roughly life-size, but in some cases many times life-size. In early days these were in wood, marble or terracotta, or in the specially prestigious form of a chryselephantine statue using ivory plaques for the visible parts of the body and gold for the clothes, around a wooden framework. The most famous Greek cult images were of this type, including the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and Phidias's Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon in Athens, both colossal statues, now completely lost. Fragments of two chryselephantine statues from Delphi have been excavated. Bronze cult images were less frequent, at least until Hellenistic times. [19] Early images seem often to have been dressed in real clothes, and at all periods images might wear real jewelry donated by devotees.

The acrolith was another composite form, this time a cost-saving one with a wooden body. A xoanon was a primitive and symbolic wooden image, perhaps comparable to the Hindu lingam many of these were retained and revered for their antiquity, even when a new statue was the main cult image. Xoana had the advantage that they were easy to carry in processions at festivals. The Trojan Palladium, famous from the myths of the Epic Cycle and supposedly ending up in Rome, was one of these. The sacred boulder or baetyl is another very primitive type, found around the Mediterranean and Ancient Near East.

Many of the Greek statues well known from Roman marble copies were originally temple cult images, which in some cases, such as the Apollo Barberini, can be credibly identified. A very few actual originals survive, for example, the bronze Piraeus Athena (2.35 m (7.7 ft) high, including a helmet). The image stood on a base, from the 5th century often carved with reliefs.

It used to be thought that access to the cella of a Greek temple was limited to the priests, and it was entered only rarely by other visitors, except perhaps during important festivals or other special occasions. In recent decades this picture has changed, and scholars now stress the variety of local access rules. Pausanias was a gentlemanly traveller of the 2nd-century AD who declares that the special intention of his travels around Greece was to see cult images, and usually managed to do so. [20]

It was typically necessary to make a sacrifice or gift, and some temples restricted access either to certain days of the year, or by class, race, gender (with either men or women forbidden), or even more tightly. Garlic-eaters were forbidden in one temple, in another women unless they were virgins restrictions typically arose from local ideas of ritual purity or a perceived whim of the deity. In some places visitors were asked to show they spoke Greek elsewhere Dorians were not allowed entry. Some temples could only be viewed from the threshold. Some temples are said never to be opened at all. But generally Greeks, including slaves, had a reasonable expectation of being allowed into the cella. Once inside the cella it was possible to pray to or before the cult image, and sometimes to touch it Cicero saw a bronze image of Heracles with its foot largely worn away by the touch of devotees. [21] Famous cult images such as the Statue of Zeus at Olympia functioned as significant visitor attractions. [22]

The role of women in sacrifices is discussed above. In addition, the only public roles that Greek women could perform were priestesses: [23] either hiereiai, meaning "sacred women" or amphipolis, a term for lesser attendants. As a priestess, they gained social recognition and access to more luxuries than other Greek women that worked or typically stayed in the home. They were mostly from local elite families some roles required virgins, who would typically only serve for a year or so before marriage, while other roles went to married women. Women who voluntarily chose to become priestesses received an increase in social and legal status to the public, and after death, they received a public burial site. Greek priestesses had to be healthy and of a sound mind, the reasoning being that the ones serving the gods had to be as high-quality as their offerings. [24] This was also true for male Greek priests.

It is contested whether there were gendered divisions when it came to serving a particular god or goddess, who was devoted to what god, gods and/or goddesses could have both priests and priestesses to serve them. Gender specifics did come into play when it came to who would perform certain acts of sacrifice or worship were determined by the significance of the male or female role to that particular god or goddess, a priest would lead the priestess or the reverse. [25] In some Greek cults priestesses served both gods and goddesses, such examples as the Pythia, or female Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and that at Didyma were priestesses, but both were overseen by male priests. The festival of Dionosyus was practiced by both and the god was served by women and female priestesses, they were known as the Gerarai or the venerable ones. [26]

There were segregated religious festivals in Ancient Greece the Thesmophoria, Plerosia, Kalamaia, Adonia, and Skira were festivals that were only for women. The Thesmophoria festival and many others represented agricultural fertility, which was considered to be closely connected to women by the ancient Greeks. It gave women a religious identity and purpose in Greek religion, in which the role of women in worshipping goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone reinforced traditional lifestyles. The festivals relating to agricultural fertility were valued by the polis because this is what they traditionally worked for, women-centered festivals that involved private matters were less important. In Athens the festivals honoring Demeter were included in the calendar and promoted by Athens, they constructed temples and shrines like the Thesmophorion, where women could perform their rites and worship. [27]

Those who were not satisfied by the public cult of the gods could turn to various mystery religions which operated as cults into which members had to be initiated in order to learn their secrets.

Here, they could find religious consolations that traditional religion could not provide: a chance at mystical awakening, a systematic religious doctrine, a map to the afterlife, a communal worship, and a band of spiritual fellowship.

Some of these mysteries, like the mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace, were ancient and local. Others were spread from place to place, like the mysteries of Dionysus. During the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire, exotic mystery religions became widespread, not only in Greece, but all across the empire. Some of these were new creations, such as Mithras, while others had been practiced for hundreds of years before, like the Egyptian mysteries of Osiris.

Origins

Mainstream Greek religion appears to have developed out of Proto-Indo-European religion and although very little is known about the earliest periods there are suggestive hints that some local elements go back even further than the Bronze Age or Helladic period to the farmers of Neolithic Greece. There was also clearly cultural evolution from the Late Helladic Mycenaean religion of the Mycenaean civilization. Both the literary settings of some important myths and many important sanctuaries relate to locations that were important Helladic centers that had become otherwise unimportant by Greek times. [28]

The Mycenaeans perhaps treated Poseidon, to them a god of earthquakes as well as the sea, as their chief deity, and forms of his name along with several other Olympians are recognizable in records in Linear B, although Apollo and Aphrodite are absent. Only about half of the Mycenaean pantheon seem to survive the Greek Dark Ages though. The archaeological evidence for continuity in religion is far clearer for Crete and Cyprus than the Greek mainland. [29]

Greek religious concepts may also have absorbed the beliefs and practices of earlier, nearby cultures, such as Minoan religion, [30] and other influences came from the Near East, especially via Cyprus. [29] Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, traced many Greek religious practices to Egypt.

The Great Goddess hypothesis, that a Stone Age religion dominated by a female Great Goddess was displaced by a male-dominated Indo-European hierarchy, has been proposed for Greece as for Minoan Crete and other regions, but has not been in favor with specialists for some decades, though the question remains too poorly-evidenced for a clear conclusion at the least the evidence from Minoan art shows more goddesses than gods. [31] The Twelve Olympians, with Zeus as sky father, certainly have a strong Indo-European flavor [32] by the time of the epic works of Homer all are well-established, except for Dionysus. However, several of the Homeric Hymns, probably composed slightly later, are dedicated to him.

Archaic and classical periods

Archaic and Classical Greece saw the development of flourishing cities and of stone-built temples to the gods, which were rather consistent in design across the Greek world. Religion was closely tied to civic life, and priests were mostly drawn from the local elite. Religious works led the development of Greek sculpture, though apparently not the now-vanished Greek painting. While much religious practice was, as well as personal, aimed at developing solidarity within the polis, a number of important sanctuaries developed a "Panhellenic" status, drawing visitors from all over the Greek world. These served as an essential component in the growth and self-consciousness of Greek nationalism. [33]

The mainstream religion of the Greeks did not go unchallenged within Greece. As Greek philosophy developed its ideas about ethics, the Olympians were bound to be found wanting. Several notable philosophers criticized a belief in the gods. The earliest of these was Xenophanes, who chastised the human vices of the gods as well as their anthropomorphic depiction. Plato wrote that there was one supreme god, whom he called the "Form of the Good", and which he believed was the emanation of perfection in the universe. Plato's disciple, Aristotle, also disagreed that polytheistic deities existed, because he could not find enough empirical evidence for it. He believed in a Prime Mover, which had set creation going, but was not connected to or interested in the universe.

Hellenistic period

In the Hellenistic period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the Roman conquest of Greece (146 BC) Greek religion developed in various ways, including expanding over at least some of Alexander's conquests. The new dynasties of diadochi, kings and tyrants often spent lavishly on temples, often following Alexander in trying to insinuate themselves into religious cult this was much easier for the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, where the traditional ancient Egyptian religion had long had deified monarchs. The enormous raised Pergamon Altar (now in Berlin) and the Altar of Hieron in Sicily are examples of unprecedentedly large constructions of the period.

New cults of imported deities such as Isis from Egypt, Atargatis from Syria, and Cybele from Anatolia became increasingly important, as well as several philosophical movements such as Platonism, stoicism, and Epicureanism both tended to detract from the traditional religion, although many Greeks were able to hold beliefs from more than one of these groups. Serapis was essentially a Hellenistic creation, if not devised then spread in Egypt for political reasons by Ptolemy I Soter as a hybrid of Greek and local styles of deity. Various philosophical movements, including the Orphics and Pythagoreans, began to question the ethics of animal sacrifice, and whether the gods really appreciated it from the surviving texts Empedocles and Theophrastus (both vegetarians) were notable critics. [34] Hellenistic astrology developed late in the period, as another distraction from the traditional practices. Although the traditional myths, festivals and beliefs all continued, these trends probably reduced the grip on the imagination of the traditional pantheon, especially among the educated, but probably more widely in the general population.

Roman Empire

When the Roman Republic conquered Greece in 146 BC, it took much of Greek religion (along with many other aspects of Greek culture such as literary and architectural styles) and incorporated it into its own. The Greek gods were equated with the ancient Roman deities Zeus with Jupiter, Hera with Juno, Poseidon with Neptune, Aphrodite with Venus, Ares with Mars, Artemis with Diana, Athena with Minerva, Hermes with Mercury, Hephaestus with Vulcan, Hestia with Vesta, Demeter with Ceres, Hades with Pluto, Tyche with Fortuna, and Pan with Faunus. Some of the gods, such as Apollo and Bacchus, had earlier been adopted by the Romans. There were also many deities that existed in the Roman religion before its interaction with Greece that were not associated with a Greek deity, including Janus and Quirinus.

The Romans generally did not spend much on new temples in Greece, other that those for their Imperial cult, which were placed in all important cities. Exceptions include Antoninus Pius (r. 138–161 AD), whose commissions include the Baalbec Temple of Bacchus, arguably the most impressive survival from the imperial period (though the Temple of Jupiter-Baal next to it was larger). It could be said the Greek world was by this time well furnished with sanctuaries. Roman governors and emperors often pilfered famous statues from sanctuaries, sometimes leaving contemporary reproductions in their place. Verres, governor of Sicily from 73 to 70 BC, was an early example who, unusually, was prosecuted after his departure.

After the huge Roman conquests beyond Greece, new cults from Egypt and Asia became popular in Greece as well as the western empire.

Decline and suppression

The initial decline of Greco-Roman polytheism was due in part to its syncretic nature, assimilating beliefs and practices from a variety of foreign religious traditions as the Roman Empire expanded [ page needed ] . Greco-Roman philosophical schools incorporated elements of Judaism and Early Christianity, and mystery religions like Christianity and Mithraism also became increasingly popular. Constantine I became the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and the Edict of Milan in 313 AD enacted official tolerance for Christianity within the Empire. Still, in Greece and elsewhere, there is evidence that pagan and Christian communities remained essentially segregated from each other, with little cultural influence flowing between the two [ page needed ] . Urban pagans continued to utilize the civic centers and temple complexes, while Christians set up their own, new places of worship in suburban areas of cities. Contrary to some older scholarship, newly converted Christians did not simply continue worshiping in converted temples rather, new Christian communities were formed as older pagan communities declined and were eventually suppressed and disbanded. [35] [ page needed ]

The Roman Emperor Julian, a nephew of Constantine, initiated an effort to end the ascension of Christianity within the empire and re-organize a syncretic version of Greco-Roman polytheism which he termed, "Hellenism". Later known as “The Apostate”, Julian had been raised Christian but embraced the pagan faith of his ancestors in early adulthood. Taking notice of how Christianity ultimately flourished under suppression, Julian pursued a policy of marginalization but not destruction towards the Church tolerating and at times lending state support toward other prominent faiths (particularly Judaism) when he believed doing so would be likely to weaken Christianity. [36] Julian's Christian training influenced his decision to create a single organized version of the various old pagan traditions, with a centralized priesthood and a coherent body of doctrine, ritual, and liturgy based on Neoplatonism. [37] [38] On the other hand, Julian forbid Christian educators from utilizing many of the great works of philosophy and literature associated with Greco-Roman paganism. Julian believed Christianity had benefited significantly from not only access to but influence over classical education. [39]

Julian's successor Constantinus reversed some of his reforms, but Jovian, [40] Valentinian I, and Valens continued Julian's policy of religious toleration within the Empire, garnering them both praise from pagan writers. [41] Official persecution of paganism in the Eastern Empire began under Theodosius I in 381 AD. [42] Theodosius strictly enforced anti-pagan laws, had priesthoods disbanded, temples destroyed, and actively participated in Christian actions against pagan holy sites. [43] He enacted laws that prohibited worship of pagan gods not only in public, but also within private homes. [37] The last Olympic Games were held in 393 AD, and Theodosius likely suppressed any further attempts to hold the games. [8] Western Empire Emperor Gratian, under the influence of his adviser Ambrose, ended the widespread, unofficial tolerance that had existed in the Western Roman Empire since the reign of Julian. In 382 AD, Gratian appropriated the income and property of the remaining orders of pagan priests, disbanded the Vestal Virgins, removed altars, and confiscated temples. [44]

Despite official suppression by the Roman government, worship of the Greco-Roman gods persisted in some rural and remote regions into the early Middle Ages. A claimed temple to Apollo, with a community of worshipers and associated sacred grove, survived at Monte Cassino until 529 AD, when it was forcefully converted to a Christian chapel by Saint Benedict of Nursia, who destroyed the altar and cut down the grove. [45] Other pagan communities, namely the Maniots, persisted in the Mani Peninsula of Greece until at least the 9th century. [35]

Modern revivals

Greek religion and philosophy have experienced a number of revivals, firstly in the arts, humanities and spirituality of Renaissance Neoplatonism, which was certainly believed by many to have effects in the real world. During the period of time (14th–17th centuries) when the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks gained widespread appreciation in Europe, this new popularity did not extend to ancient Greek religion, especially the original theist forms, and most new examinations of Greek philosophy were written within a solidly Christian context. [46]

Early revivalists, with varying degrees of commitment, were the Englishmen John Fransham (1730–1810), interested in Neoplatonism, and Thomas Taylor (1758–1835), who produced the first English translations of many Neoplatonic philosophical and religious texts.


Kronos

Kronos is one of the Titans, which was one of the earliest generations of Immortals to inhabit the earth. Kronos's mother was Ge (Earth) was the second Immortal to come into existence . her first creation was Ouranos (Heaven). Ge and Ouranos joined to produce two very important groups of offspring.

The first group of Immortals to be conceived by Ge and Ouranos were the three brothers Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes . they were monstrous . each one had fifty heads and fifty arms sprouting from his massive shoulders.

When Ouranos saw the potential threat Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes posed to his authority, he refused to allow them to be born, by keeping them inside Ge's womb. This was an action for which Ouranos would be severely punished and Kronos was destined to be the instrument of that punishment.

The second group of Immortals created by the union of Ge and Ouranos was the Titans. Kronos is one of the Titans.

The Titans

The birth of the Titans did not seem threatening to Ouranos but he quickly realized they were not going to be easily controlled. There were twelve Titans . six males and six females. Ouranos named them Titans because they quickly demonstrated their complete lack of restraint . the name Titans literally means Stretchers or Strainers . they stretched and strained the limits of propriety and indulged themselves to the point of self-destruction. With Kronos as their nominal leader, the Titans not only brought about their own demise, they were also responsible for the demotion and mutilation of their father, Ouranos.

  • Okeanos (Ocean)&mdashthe father of the Okeanids and Rivers.
  • Koios&mdashthe father of Leto and Asteria.
  • Krios&mdashthe father of Pallas.
  • Hyperion&mdashthe father of Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn).
  • Iapetos&mdashthe father of Prometheus, Atlas, Epimetheus, and Menoitios.
  • Theia&mdashthe mother of Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn).
  • Rhea&mdashthe mother of the Olympians.
  • Themis&mdashthe goddess of law and order.
  • Mnemosyne (Memory)&mdashthe mother of the Muses.
  • Phoibe&mdashthe mother of Leto and Asteria.
  • Tethys&mdashthe wife of Okeanos (Ocean) and the mother of the Okeanids and Rivers.
  • Kronos&mdashthe father of the Olympians.

The Titans were the first generation of Immortals to have a human appearance and even though we associate the derivative term Titanic with something very large, the Immortals who preceded the Titans were truly enormous . the Earth, the Heavens, the Mountains, and the Seas.

The Confrontation with Ouranos

Kronos was the youngest of the Titans and his name is often preceded by a variety of unflattering adjectives&mdashwily, crafty, devious, devising&mdashnevertheless, when his mother Ge pleaded with her children for help, Kronos was the only one to come to her assistance.

Ouranos was not content to be in any way subservient to Ge . his domineering tactics were at first an annoyance but Ge finally realized he would not relent until he became her master. Ge called her Titan sons together and told them of her dilemma . she asked for one of them to step forward and confront Ouranos . Kronos was the only one to volunteer to help his mother. In anticipation of the necessary violence to be used against Ouranos, Ge created the element flint and formed a sickle to be used as a weapon.

Ge gave Kronos the flint sickle with its jagged edge and hid him in a secret place so he could surprise Ouranos. Just as Ge predicted, Ouranos came to her as night fell . Kronos leapt from his hiding spot, took the sickle in his left hand and struck his father . Ouranos was caught unawares and did not have an opportunity to protect himself from the cruel flint . his male members were cut off and the drops of blood were absorbed by Ge.

As the seasons passed, Ouranos's blood gave life to Erinys (punisher of the unfaithful), the Giants, and the Meliae (Nymphs of the Ash Tree). The remaining flesh fell into the sea and from the foam and water a maiden was created . this maiden became the goddess of love, Aphrodite.

The site of the ambush is not known with certainty but there are two locations we might consider. There is a cape on the northern Peloponnesian Peninsula called Cape Drepanum, i.e. Cape Sickle . the traveler-historian Pausanias thought this was the setting for the assault on Ouranos but that assumption ignores the creation of Aphrodite. The goddess of love is called Kypros and was created, like a good number of the Greek Immortals, in "the east" . we should therefore look towards the island of Kypros (Cyprus) as her birthplace. There is a place on the western coast of Kypros named Drepanum (Sickle) and this is more than likely the place where Ouranos was castrated and bled into the sea creating Aphrodite.

The Golden Age

The first generation of mortal men to live on the earth was created by the Immortals when Kronos was reigning from Mount Olympos . they were called the Golden Generation and the time in which they lived was known as the Golden Age.

The Golden Generation lived like gods . they had no sorrows and were free from all grief and toil . all plants and animals were theirs for the taking and they lived and feasted beyond the reach of all evils.

The Golden Generation was truly loved by the Immortals and after a life of ease and peace, they died as though they were overcome with sleep. The earth eventually covered them but they remained as pure spirits dwelling on the earth. They are kindly spirits who assume the role of guardians of mortal men . they roam everywhere over the earth clothed in mist as givers of wealth and keeping watch over judgments and cruel deeds.

Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes

Kronos became the most powerful and feared Immortal on earth. He chose Mount Olympos as his home and evicted the previous residents, Eurynome, a daughter of Okeanos (Ocean), and her consort Ophion. To further assist his mother, Kronos freed the awesome brothers Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes from her womb but he quickly came to regret that decision. Once he saw the three remarkable "boys" Kronos realized they were strong enough to usurp his authority and force him from Mount Olympos. Before the three brothers could grow into their full stature and virility, Kronos buried them under the earth and planned to keep them there until the end of time.

The Swallowed Children

Kronos and his sister-wife Rhea began to have children. Ge and Ouranos warned Kronos that one of his children would eventually overthrow him and become the foremost Immortal. To prevent that possibility, Kronos decided that he would swallow any children that Rhea bore.

As soon as they were born, Kronos swallowed Rhea's first five children . although Rhea was opposed to Kronos's self-indulgent behavior, there was nothing she could do to stop him . or so she thought. When Rhea consulted Ge and Ouranos, they informed her that she could deceive Kronos and save the life of her next child. They told her that when she gave birth again, to conceal the infant and present a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to Kronos. Rhea did as she had been advised . she gave Kronos a stone instead of the baby and he hurriedly swallowed it down without realizing he had been fooled.

Rhea named the infant Zeus . she secretly took the baby to the island of Krete and put him in the care of the Kouretes. The Kouretes were a militaristic group and not the type you would expect to be given the duties of caring for an infant . the Kouretes gave the infant Zeus to the Nymphs of Mount Ida to be nurtured . the Kouretes served a much more practical and protective role in Zeus's upbringing.

When Zeus cried or made other childlike noises, the Kouretes would drown out the commotion by dancing, chanting and clashing their weapons on their shields . their objective was to keep Kronos from hearing Zeus . they succeeded very well . Kronos did not suspect that an immortal child was being reared on Krete and he certainly didn't suspect that he had a child growing to manhood who would eventually confront him and challenge his authority.

The Conception of Kheiron

While Zeus was still hidden on Krete, Kronos indulged in at least one affair that produced a child. The creation of the famous and noble Centaur Kheiron was the result of an unlikely and accidental encounter between Kronos and a daughter of Okeanos (Ocean).

Philyra was one of the thousands of daughters of Okeanos and Tethys . she lived on an island in the Black Sea. When Kronos saw Philyra he was filled with desire and made amorous advances towards the young goddess. Kronos did not want Rhea to know of his affair with Philyra and there was little chance of her finding out unless cruel fate somehow exposed his deeds . indeed, fate was cruel to Kronos but not to his offspring.

Rhea happened to come upon Kronos and Philyra while they were in the act of making love . Kronos hastily took the guise of a horse to hide his infidelity. Whether the adlib disguise fooled Rhea is debatable but the result of the union between Horse-Kronos and Philyra became absolutely clear when their child was born with the body of a Centaur.

Philyra gave birth to a creature that was half horse and half god . he had the characteristics of a Centaur, i.e. he had the body of a horse with the torso and head of a man . he was named Kheiron. Although he had the appearance of a brutish Centaur, Kheiron was in fact one of the most intelligent and humane beings ever born . his righteousness became legendary . with the exception of the Olympians, Kheiron was the most extraordinary child Kronos fathered.

The Rebirth of the Olympians

The five children Kronos swallowed were named Demeter, Hades, Histia, Hera, and Poseidon . after being swallowed, they grew and matured in a "normal" fashion but were unable to extricate themselves from their father's infinite interior. As Zeus grew older there was little doubt that he would eventually confront Kronos and dethrone him . the only question was when and how the prophecy of Ge and Ouranos would be fulfilled.

When the proper time came, Zeus went after Kronos . he ambushed his father and caught him unawares . Zeus kicked Kronos in the stomach with such violence the elder god vomited up the stone and the five children . the stone came out first and Histia last . Histia was the first to be swallowed and the last to disgorged . she is therefore the oldest and the youngest of the swallowed children.

Zeus took the stone Kronos swallowed and placed it at the foot of Mount Parnassos near the city of Delphi . he proclaimed that the stone would be a portent and marvel for the mortals of the earth for all time. The stone was called the Omphalos (Navel) and its location became known as the Navel of the Earth. The Omphalos was the symbol for the divine authority of the temple of Apollon at Delphi.

The War of the Titans

With his children now free, Kronos knew that the prophecy Ge and Ouranos had given him was being fulfilled . even so, he refused to accept the possibility that he would be dethroned. With his Titan brothers and sisters at his side Kronos initiated a war against his own children . the conflict came to be known as the War of the Titans.

Zeus gathered the Immortals who seemed inclined to become his allies against the Titans and promised that any Immortal who did not have an office or rights under Kronos would be elevated if they helped him defeat the Titans. Zeus also freed Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes from their subterranean prison . they readily agreed to fight the Titans . they were especially anxious to fight with Kronos and have their revenge for the many years he had kept them confined.

The War of the Titans shook the earth to its foundations . the gods and goddesses battled for ten brutal years . finally, Zeus unleashed all his fury against the Titans and their allies . at the same time, Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes ripped up mountains to bury the Titans under an avalanche of boulders . with that final barrage, the war was over.

Kronos and Rhea were forcibly removed from Mount Olympos . Zeus and eleven other Immortals took control of the sacred mountain . the Immortals who comprised the Olympians varied over the millennia but the number remained constant at twelve.

Zeus banished Kronos and his rebellious Titan brothers to an underground pit beneath Tartaros where they remained until after the Age of Heroes was over. Zeus had pity on Kronos and removed him to the Islands of the Blessed where he became the ruler of the departed heroes.

Factoids

The Wanderer

The ancient Greeks called the planets Wanderers because they were unlike the "fixed" stars and moved or wandered through the heavens. It seems likely that the first humans on the earth were not aware of the Wanderers and therefore did not name them but after Zeus became the Father of Gods and Men, the Wanderers were named . the planet Kronos was renamed Saturn by the Romans and thus it remains.

The goddess Hera was very proud of the fact that she was the first daughter of devious, devising Kronos.

Hill of Kronos

Next to the temple of Zeus at Olympia is a famous landmark called the Hill of Kronos. The poet Pindar referred to the Hill of Kronos with the adjectives like well-wooded and sunny . the implication being that it was a very pleasant place.

Temple

The traveler-historian Pausanias saw a temple of Kronos and Rhea in Athens that was in existence at the time of the deluge of Deukalion, i.e. 11000 BCE.

Olympia

The first temple built at Olympia was in honor of Kronos. Zeus and Kronos wrestled at Olympia and after defeating his father, Zeus held games to commemorate his victory . apparently only the Immortals were allowed to compete in the first Olympic Games . Apollon was the winner of the first games.

Poseidon

The Arkadians believed that Poseidon was not swallowed by Kronos and escaped that fate with the help of Rhea. The Arkadians told the traveler-historian Pausanias that when Poseidon was born, Rhea concealed him amongst a flock of lambs . she told Kronos that she had given birth to a horse and gave him a foal to swallow instead of the child.

Osiris and Isis

The ancient Egyptians believed Zeus and Hera were the children of Kronos and Rhea but they also believed Osiris and Isis were two of the five children of Zeus and Hera.

Blood Sacrifice

The differences between the Carthaginians of Northern Africa and the Greeks were quite dramatic in some cases . the worship of Kronos was a perfect example. The Carthaginian general Hannibal died circa 183 BCE . after his death, the Carthaginian army was beset with a superstitious belief that death-spirits were threatening them . they immediately put a halt to their practice of desecrating religious monuments and to appease Kronos they offered a blood sacrifice by ritualistically killing a young boy . also, a multitude of cattle were drowned in the sea as a tribute to Poseidon.


Watch the video: Gaia: the Earth Goddess (December 2021).