Who is Erebus in Greek Mythology?
Erebus (Romanized: Érebos, meaning “deep darkness, shadow”), or Erebos, is the personification of darkness and one of the primal deities in Greek mythology. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Erebus was one of the first five creatures to emerge from Chaos; the other four are his siblings, Erebus had 4 siblings: Gaea, Tartarus, Eros, and Nyx. The term Erebus was also used to describe a place of the Underworld where the deceased went immediately after death.
The Family of Erebus
It’s been a while since we’ve discussed some Greek mythology, and even longer since we discussed one of the primordial deities. Today’s article will be on Erebus, the primordial god of Darkness, who many consider along with his wife NYX, to have been the first primordial beings to have come from Chaos.
The exact order of these beings does change depending on your source, but if we go with Hesiod, then we know that he was part of the first five primordial beings that Chaos gave birth to.
Quite often people confuse Erebus and Nyx because night and darkness are things that go together, but Erebus symbolized the darkness and all things inside of it, whereas Nyx symbolized the night. With that being said, the task of spreading this darkness across the sky did fall to Nyx.
The Children of Erebus and Nyx
We can almost look at Erebus as this dark mist that Nyx would unleash and must paint the sky with when it was nighttime. Their children Hemera and Aether would then sweep the starkness away bringing with them a new day.
“From chaos came forth Erebus and black Night (Nyx); but of Night were born Aether and Day (Hemera), whom she conceived and bore from union in love of Erebus.”Hesiod, Theogony
Hesiod doesn’t mention Erebus in any story or any detail, but that is the description he gives in his Theogony. Together Erebus and Nyx fathered and mothered many deities and some of these included Hypnos, Styx, Nemesis, Thanatos, and the Fates (Moirai), along with Hemera and Aether—who we mentioned earlier.
Before the likes of Hyperion, Helios, Apollo, and any other deity associated with the Sun, the ancient Greeks saw Erebus and Aether as the sources of day and light, and that is how they explain the cycle as opposed to the Sun.
Erebus Connection with the Underworld
Erebus and Tartarus were also a deity that was closely linked as some stories believe that when the day came, Erebus retreated to the darkest recesses of Tartarus. Because of this, Erebus can almost be considered as the first God of the underworld, and it’s this association of Tartarus that led to Erebus becoming a place that referred to a place in between the earth and the underworld that the souls would have to travel through.
I know this article has been rather short but when compared to the Olympians, we just really don’t know much about the primordial generation. Erebus himself is probably the least discussed of the initial five, but that’s not to say that he wasn’t important.
The ancient Greeks used Erebus to explain the darkness and, in turn, its relationship with light and why so many places may have been darker than others. Erebus and Tartarus also gave us the first concept of the Greek underworld that poets and storytellers were heavily expanded upon.
Art Credit: Charidimos Bitsakakis.