The Titans vs. The Olympians

I recently wrote a book review for The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood’s contemporary twist on the traditional tale of The Odyssey. The book evoked my old curiosity in the world of classical civilisations, so I’ve decided to write a series of non-fiction pieces describing some of the myths from the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman worlds. As ever, thanks for reading.

The History

Cronus became the lord of the universe by helping his mother, Gaia, to overthrow Uranus, her husband. After this, Cronus reigned for many hundreds of years as the master and lord of everything. He commanded the other gods and treated humankind however he saw fit.

However, one day he heard of a prophesy that threatened this position. It stated that, one day, one of his children would overthrow him, just as he had once overthrown his father.

Rubens_saturn
Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Terrified that this would come true, Cronus swallowed (yes, swallowed. You read it right) his first five children as soon as they were born. They were, of course, immortal, and so he couldn’t kill them, but by swallowing them whole, he believed that he was trapping them forever.

When Rhea, his wife, grew pregnant for a sixth time, she was determined to avoid the same fate for this next child; so she fled to the island of Crete. It was here that she gave birth to her third son, and named him Zeus.

Needing to return to Cronus with a child that she had supposedly given birth to, Rhea left Zeus to be raised by nymphs as she returned with a rock wrapped tightly in a blanket. Cronus didn’t want to see his child; he swallowed the rock, thinking it was his son, without ever supposing that he might have been tricked.

When Zeus was fully grown, he returned to his father posing as a servant. He was determined to avenge his lost siblings, and so gave Cronus a cup of wine that forced his father to be violently sick.

Cronus regurgitated the rock that he’d swallowed in Zeus’ place, along with his five other children, now fully grown. Then, before Cronus had time to recover, his six children fled to Mount Olympus, which they claimed as their own and, in doing so, became the first Olympians.

The War

Joachim_Wtewael_-_The_Battle_Between_the_Gods_and_the_Titans_-_WGA25902
Joachim Wtewael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The six Olympians knew that their father would happily swallow them again if he was given the chance, and so they declared war on him and the rest of the Titans, who supported him. As well as wishing to protect themselves, Cronus’ children hoped that they could claim his power as their own.

The war, known as Titanomachia, was terrible, lasting for a total of ten years. When it first began, though, the Olympians were massively outnumbered by the Titans; this was until Zeus sought out the Hundred-handers and the Cyclopes that Uranus had long ago imprisoned.

The Hundred-handers were able to throw massive rocks at the Titan army, proving themselves to be great allies. The Cyclopes, meanwhile, were skilled craftsmen. They forged three weapons for the three of Cronus’ sons: Zeus was given a magical thunderbolt that could be thrown great distances; Poseidon was given a trident that could defeat any enemy; and Hades a helmet that possessed the powers of invisibility.

With these weapons, the Olympians finally defeated the Titans, and decided to punish them accordingly. They sent most to Tartarus, where they would be imprisoned for eternity, but Atlas, who had led the Titans into battle, was punished by being forced to hold up the sky with his bare hands, unable to ever move, lest he destroy the world. As for Cronus, they sent him to the Island of the Dead, where he later sent dreams from to guide Zeus from afar.

Raffaello,_concilio_degli_dei_02.jpg
Raphael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Poseidon, Hades and Zeus sectioned off the world into three parts; Poseidon took control of the seas, Hades the underworld, and Zeus the skies. As the sky is what covers all the world and universe, Zeus also became king of all gods and ruler of the universe, just as Cronus had once been.

The sisters of Zeus were given responsibilities, too. Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture and all growing things; Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth and the home; and Hera, marrying Zeus, became the Goddess of marriage and childbirth. The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus were then free to continue their family, untainted by the threat of Cronus and his Titans.

Sources

  • Karas, Michael and Charilaos Megas. “Titanomachy.” Greekmythology.com.
  • March, Jenny. “Creation.” The Penguin Book of Classical Myths, Penguin, 2009, pp. 21-51
  • Wikipedia contributors. “Titanomachy.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26. Jul. 2017. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.
  • Wikipedia contributors. “Twelve Olympians.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10. Aug. 2017.
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