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Literature: Theogony

ή τοι μεν πρώτιστα Χάος γένετ' ...

As the Muses taught Hesiod, in the beginning there was Chaos - and indeed, this is one of the most chaotic texts in the world's literary canon. Written most probably circa 700 BCE in classical epic dactylic hexameter, it is mainly a genealogical treatise with not a few elements of theological gossip about which god slept with whom and who was born as a result. 'Theogony' means 'The Origin of Gods', and it is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Presenting the whole divine family on one genealogical tree is almost impossible, but the Greeks apparently had little problems with memorizing all the details, as numerous stories from Greek mythology are perfectly consistent with the version of events described in Theogony (though, to complicate things even more, there is also a rival version written by Pseudo-Apollodorus, known as The Library).

To cut a long story short, in the beginning there was not only Chaos but also Gaia (Mother Earth), Tartarus (Ineffably Deep Abyss), and Eros (who in those times resembled rather Will To Procreate than Romantic Love). Then, Gaia gave birth, among other creatures, to Ouranos (Heaven) and Pontus (Sea), both of whom later fathered on her many children. This strange family had three main branches:

1) Chaos
  • Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night)
    • Erebus and Nyx reproduced to make: Aether (Light) and Hemera (Day)
    • Nyx produced parthenogenetically: Moros (Doom), Oneiroi (Dreams), the Keres (Destinies), Eris (Discord), Momos (Blame), Philotes (Love), Geras (Old Age), Thanatos (Death), Moirai (Fates), Nemesis (Retribution), Hesperides (Daughters of Night), Hypnos (Sleep), Oizys (Hardship), Apate (Deceit)
      • Children of Eris: Ponos (Pain), Hysmine (Battles), the Neikea (Quarrels), the Phonoi (Murders), Lethe (Oblivion), Makhai (Fight), Pseudologos (Lies), Amphilogia (Disputes), Limos (Famine), Androktasia (Manslaughters), Ate (Ruin), Dysnomia (Anarchy and Disobedient Lawlessness), the Algea (Illness), Horkos (Oaths), Logoi (Stories)

2) Gaia (Olympians in Bold)
  • Ouranos (Sky); he and Gaia reproduced to make:
    • Titans: Cronus and Rhea
      • Hestia
      • Demeter
      • Hera
      • Hades
      • Poseidon
      • Zeus
      with Oceanid Metis produced Athena
      with Titan Themis produced: Horae (Hours): Eunomia (Order), Dikē (Justice), Eirene (Peace), the three Moirai (Fates)note , Tyche (Luck)
      with his sister Demeter produced: Persephone
      with Titan Mnemosyne produced: nine Muses
      with Leto produced: Apollo and Artemis
      with his sister Hera produced: Hebe, Ares, Enyo, Hephaestus, and Eileithyia
      with a Pleiad nymph produced: Hermes
      with mortal Semele produced: Dionysius
    • Titans: Oceanus and Tethys
      • Potamoi (Rivers)
      Naiad nymphs
      • Oceanid nymphs
    • Titans: Hyperion and Theia
      • Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), Eos (Dawn)
    • Titans: Coeus and Phoebe
      • Leto and Asteria
    • Titan: Crius, with his mate produces
      • Astraios, Pallas, Perses
    • Titan: Iapetus, with an Oceanid nymph produced
      • Atlas
      with an Oceanid nymph produced the Pleiad nymphs, Hyad nymphs, and Hyas
      • Menoetius
      • Prometheus
      • Epimetheus
    • Titan: Mnemosyne
    • Titan: Themis
    • Cyclopes (one-eyed giants): Brontes, Steropes, Arges
    • Hecatonchires (hundred-armed giants): Kottos, Briareos, Gyges
    • Ouranos upon his castration by Cronus produced: Erinyes (the Furies), Giants, Meliai (Dryad) nymphs, Aphrodite
  • the Ourea (Mountains)
  • Pontus (Sea), with Gaia produced
    • Nereus (Old Man of the Sea)
      • with an Oceanid nymph produces: the Nereid nymphs
    • Thaumas
      • with an Oceanid nymph produces: Iris (Rainbow) and two Harpies
    • Phorcys and Ceto, who reproduce to make
      • the Graiae, the Gorgons, Echidna, and Ophion

3) Tartarus
  • with Gaia produced: Typhon
    • with Echidna produced the monsters: Orthrus, Cerberus, Hydra, Chimera, Sphinx, Nemean Lion

Yes, the Fates appear there twice, and yes, they are the same Fates, because their names are identical in both cases. Two identical sets of Fates look so uncanny that scholars usually believe one of them to be an interpolation.

There is also another poem by this author, but it is considerably less mythological and much more didactic.


Theogony exemplifies:


Tam LinClassic LiteratureTom Thumb
SymposiumNon-English LiteratureThe Trojan Cycle
    Sacred LiteratureEnuma Elish
Tarot CardsUseful NotesWiccan Mythology

alternative title(s): Theogony
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