Titans

In Greek mythology, the Titans (Greek: Τιτάν – Ti-tan; plural: Τιτᾶνες – Ti-tânes), were a race of powerful deities that ruled during the legendary Golden Age. Their role as Elder Gods was overthrown by a race of younger gods, the Olympians, which effected a mythological paradigm shift that the Greeks may have borrowed from the Ancient Near East.

There are twelve Titans from their first literary appearance, in Hesiod, Theogony; Pseudo-Apollodorus, in Bibliotheke, adds a thirteenth Titan Dione, a double of Theia. The six male Titans are known as the Titanes, and the females as the Titanides (“Titanesses”). The Titans were associated with various primal concepts, some of which are simply extrapolated from their names: ocean and fruitful earth, sun and moon, memory and natural law. The twelve first-generation Titans were ruled by the youngest, Kronos (Saturn), who overthrew their father, Uranus (‘Sky’), at the urgings of their mother, Gaia (‘Earth’).

Several Titans produced offspring who are also known as “Titans.” These second-generation Titans include the children of Hyperion (Helios, Eos, and Selene), the daughters of Coeus (Leto and Asteria), and the sons of Iapetus(Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, and Menoetius).

The Titans preceded the Twelve Olympians, who, led by Zeus, eventually overthrew them in the Titanomachy (‘War of the Titans’). The Titans were then imprisoned in Tartarus, the deepest part of the underworld, with a few exceptions, most being those who did not fight against Zeus.

In Hesiod

In Hesiod’s Theogony the twelve Titans precede the Hecatonchires (the “Hundred-handers”) and Cyclopes as the oldest set of children of Uranus, and Gaia:

“Afterwards she lay with Uranus and bore deep-swirling until finally she died Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronus the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.”

Uranus kept all of Gaia’s children trapped within her womb, and Gaia groaned from the strain. Eventually, Cronus (Kronos), her youngest child at the time, volunteered to set upon his father, castrating him with a sickle, thereby freeing Gaia’s children and setting himself up as king of the titans with Rhea as his wife and queen.

Rhea gave birth to a new generation of gods to Cronus, but, in fear that they too would eventually overthrow him, he swallowed them all whole one by one. Only Zeus was saved: Rhea gave Cronus a stone in swaddling clothes in his place, and placed the infant Zeus on Mount Ida in Crete to be guarded by the Kouretes. Other versions of the myth have Zeus raised by the nymph Adamanthea, who hid Zeus by dangling him by a rope from a tree so that he was suspended between the earth, the sea, and the sky, all of which were ruled by his father, Cronus. Still other versions of the tale say that Zeus was raised by his grandmother, Gaia.

Once Zeus reached adulthood, he subdued Cronus by wile rather than force, using a potion concocted with the help of Metis, goddess of prudence, to force Cronus to vomit up Zeus’s siblings. A war between younger and older gods commenced, in which Zeus was aided by the Hecatonchires and Cyclopes, who had once again been freed from Tartarus. Zeus won after a long struggle, and cast many of the Titans down into Tartarus.

Yet the older gods left their mark on the world: Oceanus continued to encircle the world, and the name of “bright shining” Phoebe was attached as an epithet to effulgent Apollo, “Phoebus Apollo”. The epithet was also associated with his sister, Artemis, who has also been called Phoebe. Some of the Titans had not fought the Olympians and became key players in the new administration: Mnemosyne as a Muse, Rhea, Hyperion, Themis, or the “right ordering” of things and Metis.

Titanomachy

Greeks of the Classical age knew of several poems about the war between the gods and many of the Titans, the Titanomachy (“War of the Titans”). The dominant one, and the only one that has survived, was in theTheogony attributed to Hesiod. A lost epic Titanomachy attributed to the blind Thracian bard Thamyris, himself a legendary figure, was mentioned in passing in an essay On Music that was once attributed to Plutarch. The Titans also played a prominent role in the poems attributed to Orpheus. Although only scraps of the Orphic narratives survive, they show interesting differences with the Hesiodic tradition.

These Greek myths of the Titanomachy fall into a class of similar myths of a War in Heaven throughout Europe and the Near East, where one generation or group of gods largely opposes the dominant one. Sometimes the Elder Gods are supplanted. Sometimes the rebels lose, and are either cast out of power entirely or incorporated into the pantheon. Other examples might include the wars of the Æsir with the Vanir and Jotuns inScandinavian mythology, the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, the Hittite “Kingship in Heaven” narrative, and the obscure generational conflict in Ugaritic fragments. The rebellion of Lucifer from Christianity could also fall under this category.

In Orphic sources

Hesiod is not, however, the last word on the Titans. Surviving fragments of Orphic poetry in particular preserve some variations on the myth.

In one Orphic text, Zeus does not simply set upon his father violently. Instead, Rhea spreads out a banquet for Cronus, so that he becomes drunk upon fermented honey. Rather than being consigned to Tartarus, Cronus is dragged — still drunk — to the cave of Nyx (Night), where he continues to dream and prophesy throughout eternity.

Another myth concerning the Titans that is not in Hesiod revolves around Dionysus. At some point in his reign, Zeus decides to give up the throne in favor of the infant Dionysus, who like the infant Zeus is guarded by theKouretes. The Titans decide to slay the child and claim the throne for themselves; they paint their faces white with gypsum, distract Dionysus with toys, then dismember him and boil and roast his limbs. Zeus, enraged, slays the Titans with his thunderbolt; Athena preserves the heart in a gypsum doll, out of which a new Dionysus is made. This story is told by the poets Callimachus and Nonnus, who call this Dionysus “Zagreus”, and in a number of Orphic texts, which do not.

One iteration of this story, reported by the Neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus, writing in the Christian era, says that humanity sprung up out of the fatty smoke of the burning Titan corpses. Other earlier writers imply that humanity was born out of the blood shed by the Titans in their war against Zeus.

Pindar, Plato and Oppian refer offhandedly to man’s “Titanic nature”. Whether this refers to a sort of “original sin” rooted in the murder of Dionysus is hotly debated by scholars

Wikipedia, Titan (mythology)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_(mythology) (optional description here) (as of Aug. 2, 2009, 00:45 GMT).

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