Who are the Titans in Greek Mythology?
The TITANS and Titanesses (female), according to Greek mythology, were the children of Uranus (Ouranos), the sky, and Gaia, the earth. These gigantic beings were the older gods who ruled before the Olympian gods, the brothers, sisters, and ZEUS children. The Titans included CRONUS, RHEA, Coeus, Metis, Mnemosyne and Hyperion.
In Greek myths, the first generation titans, also called the Uranides, the old order of gods, or the elderly titans, were the 12 children of Gaia the earth and Uranus the sky. They presided over the universe when it was still very young.
At the will of their mother, the titans overthrew their father because of his cruel decision to imprison his other children, the Cyclops and the Hecatoncheires, whom he called the ugly ones, in the deepest, gloomiest part of Gaia’s womb – Tartarus.
After Cronus emasculated his father, Uranus, with a sickle provided by Gaia, his long-suffering mother, the Titans came to power. With Uranus gone, titans assumed leadership, presiding over the various manifestations of the universe. They produced more titan offspring and gods alike, including the Olympians, the most powerful of their children.
The eventual battle between the older generation of gods, the Titans led by Cronus, and the younger generation, the Olympians led by his son Zeus, lasted ten years and shook the universe like no other conflict. This battle will go down in the history of Greek mythology as the TITANOMACHY.
Afterwards, Zeus threw those deities who had opposed him down to Tartarus, the land beneath the underworld. They were imprisoned and suffered in the depths of Tartarus while the Olympians gained dominion over the universe, becoming the new order of gods. After a long time of anguish in the abyss, Zeus freed his titan ancestors and once more exalted them by placing them as guardians and protectors of the Elysian fields. In this paradise, only those who achieved heroic deeds entered.
This battle against the Titans should not be confused with the Olympian gods’ later struggle with the Giants. To win this terrible confrontation, Zeus knew that he would require the help of a mighty, mortal champion, and so he fathered by ALCMENE the greatest of the Greek heroes HeraCULES.
First Generation Titans of Greek Mythology (12 Elders)
OCEANUS, or Oceanos, was a Titan, the son of Ouranos (Uranus) and Gaia, but never an enemy of Zeus. Oceanus was the bull-horned fish-tailed titan god of the freshwaters and aquatic life and the only male Titan who did not join in the war against the Titans and the gods, as he chose not to take any sides, and because of that, Zeus left him undisturbed.
Oceanus married his sister Tethys and populated his watery kingdom with 6000 children, each said to be a freshwater source. His sons were called the Potamoi – lesser
gods of the rivers, while his daughters were called the Oceanids – nymphs of the lakes, springs and all sorts of freshwater.
Coeus was one of the Titans, son of Uranus and Gaia. Based on his Greek name, it has been suggested that Coeus may have also been the Titan of curious minds and intellect. Coeus was one of the four brothers who personified the great pillars that hold the heavens and the earth, and even the entire universe: the same four who held Uranus steady as Cronus castrated him.
Coeus was the Titan of the north’s pillar, while Iapetus, Hyperion and Crius, were the east, west and south pillars, respectively. He was also the Titan of oracles and divination,
of curiosity and intelligence.
He married his sister Phoebe, who bore him Asteria (Titan of the stars) and Leto (Titan of modesty). Coeus is known by the Romans, with the name Polos.
Crius was the Titan of the South Pillar, the 2nd of the four pillars or corners of the universe. Also, the Titan of heavenly constellations, not much role was played by him in the myths, except that he aided in dethroning their father, holding him up firmly in the south, for him to be castrated.
Hyperion was the watcher from above and the east’s pillar that held Uranus fast in the far east while he was mutilated and dethroned. He was the Titan of light, wisdom and watchfulness. He consorted with his sister Theia and fathered Helios (the sun), Selene (the moon) and Eos (the dawn).
Iapetus was the Titan of mortality, craftsmanship, and the pillar of the west, the last of the four pillars who aided in dethroning their father and who hold the universe firm. He consorted with the Oceanid Clymene and fathered Prometheus (the Titan of forethought), Epimetheus (the Titan of an afterthought), Atlas (the Titan of strength), and Menoetius (the Titan of violent anger).
The sons of Iapetus were said to be the ancestors of humans, thus passing down their traits to their human descendants. Prometheus taught then cleverness and trickery, Epimetheus passed down stupidity and gullibility, Atlas gave them endurance and patience, and Menoetius passed down violence and rash actions.
Cronus was the god of time and the youngest of the 12 titans. When Gaia urged her children to rebel against their tyrannical father, only Cronus showed no fear.
Coeus, Crius, Hyperion and Iapetus later gave their aid by holding Uranus fast and tight, while Cronus castrated him with the Scythe, which became his symbol henceforth.
With their father dethroned, Cronus became the titans’ king and leader, becoming even more tyrannical. He married his sister Rhea and fathered the six Olympians—Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus.
Because Uranus had cursed him that his children would overthrow him just as he had done, Cronus swallowed each of his children as soon as they were born. Only Zeus, the youngest, escaped this fate, as Rhea hid him away and gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed.
When Zeus had grown, he gave Cronus a concoction that made him vomit his other children. After that, the ten year battle between the titans and the gods commenced, with Cronus leading the Titans and Zeus leading the Olympians and their allies.
The Titanomachy marked the end of the Titan’s rule and the beginning of a new era, the Olympians’ era.
Theia was an oracular and shining titan, the Titan of bright light, radiance, beauty and sight. She was the consort of Hyperion and mother of the sun – Helios, the moon – Selene, and the dawn – Eos.
Theia and the other female titans remained neutral and never partook in the Titanomachy; thus, they were all left unpunished.
Rhea was the Titan of fertility and motherhood, the sister & consort of Cronus, and the six Olympians’ mother. To save her last child from being swallowed, she wrapped a stone in baby clothes and presented it to her husband, tricking him into thinking he was consuming young Zeus.
Rhea retained her place as the mother titan, and although she never took sides in the great war, her heart was with her children.
Themis was the Titan goddess of law and justice, the personification of natural law and order, the divine voice who instructed humankind in the ways of morality, fairness, good governance and conduct.
In the aftermath of the Titanomachy, Zeus took Themis as his second wife, and she became his first counsellor, seated beside his throne on Olympus, advising him on the rules of the law and of fate. From their union came two sets of children, the Horai (or Horae), goddesses of time and seasons, and the Moirai, goddesses of fate.
As the goddess of justice, Themis is usually depicted as holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. She worked hand in hand with another goddess called Nemesis. While she made and passed the laws, Nemesis ensured they were followed, punishing anyone who went contrary.
Mnemosyne, sometimes called mneme, was the Titan of memory and remembrance, the lesser deity of sight and time, the patron of poets and writers. She is the mother of the nine muses, and it is said that Zeus mated with her nine nights in a row, thus, bringing forth nine children in a row.
Phoebe was the oracular Titan of the moon, and the original prophetic goddess of Delphi, a function she passed on to his grandson Apollo. She was the consort of her brother Coeus, and from their union came Asteria, goddess of the stars, and Leto – goddess of modesty.
Tethys was the titan goddess of the freshwaters, the consort of Oceanus, the mother of 6000 river deities, and nursing mothers’ patron. She took Hera in and raised her as her own
during the Titanomachy, and the two remained close ever since.
When Hera sought revenge against Calisto for sleeping with Zeus, she implored her stepmother’s aid. Tethys obliged by cursing Calisto, who had been transformed into a bear constellation, never to touch the sea and fall below the horizon, thus, dooming her to circle the skies forever.
And these are 12 older titans of Greek mythology.
Second Generation Titans of Greek Mythology
The Aloadae or Aloads, in Greek Mythology, were Otus or Otos and Ephialtes, sons of Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, by Poseidon, whom she persuaded to make her pregnant by going to the seashore and posing herself in the surf or scooping seawater into her bosom. From Aloeus, they received their surname, the Aloadae.
Asteria or Asterie, in Greek mythology, was a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe and the sister of Leto. According to Hesiod, by the Titan Perses, she had a daughter named Hecate, goddess of witchcraft. Other authors made Asteria the mother of the fourth Heracles and Hecate by Zeus.
Astraeus, in Greek mythology, was a son of the Titans Crius and Eurybia. He was the god of the dusk and the winds.
Atlas, in Greek Mythology, was the son of Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene. He was thought by the ancient Greeks to hold up the sky, and his name means “he who carries”. His famous encounter was with the Greek Hero Heracles, one of whose labours was to obtain the Hesperides’ golden apples, female guidance of the fruit that mother earth, Gaia, presented to Hera at her marriage to Zeus.
Atlas offered to fetch them for Heracles if the hero took over his holding up the sky. When Atlas returned with the apples, he suggested that he deliver them himself, as Heracles was doing so well in holding up the sky.
The hero pretended to agree and then asked if Atlas would take the world for a moment so that he could find some pillows and adjust the weight on his shoulder, so tricking Atlas into resuming his lonely duty.
Aura, in Greek mythology, was the Titan goddess of the breeze and the fresh, cool air of the early morning. She was a virgin-huntress who was excessively proud of her maidenhood. In her hubris, she dared compare her body with that of the goddess Artemis, claiming the goddess was too womanly in the form of a real virgin.
Clymene, in Greek mythology, was one of the elder Oceanids and the Titan goddess of fame and renown. She was the wife of the Titan Iapetus and the mother of Prometheus and Atlas. Clymene was also named Asia portrayed as the eponymous goddess of Anatolia (Asia Minor).
Dione was a divinatory Titan-goddess who presided over the Oracle at Dodona alongside Zeus. According to some, she was the mother of the goddess Aphrodite. She was primarily known from Book V of Homer’s Iliad, where she tends to the wounds suffered by her daughter Aphrodite.
According to some sources, she was the first wife of Zeus whom she bore Aphrodite for. Dione was worshipped at a sacred grove near Lepreon on the west coast of the Peloponnesus. She was also worshipped as a consort at the temples of Zeus, particularly his oracle at Dodona.
Eos (as Aurora in Roman mythology), in Greek mythology, was the dawn’s personification. According to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, she was the daughter of the Titan Hyperion and the Titaness Theia and sister of Helios, the sun god, and Selene, the moon goddess. She was the mother of the wandering stars (that is, the planets) and the four directional winds by the Titan Astraeus.
Epimetheus, in Greek mythology, was one of the Titans, son of Iapetus and Clymene. He was the brother of Prometheus, Atlas and Menoetius. His name in Greek word means ‘afterthought’, which is the antonym of his brother’s name, Prometheus, meaning ‘forethought’.
Eurynome was one of the older Oceanids and the titan goddess of the water-meadow and pasturelands. She was married to Zeus, who bore him the Charites, goddesses of grace and beauty.
Hecate was believed by some to be descended from the Titans. A Greek goddess with two entirely different aspects, in the day, she was supposed to have a benign influence on farming, but she was interested in witchcraft, ghosts, and tombs during the hours of darkness.
In many ways, similar to the vegetation goddess DEMETER, Hecate uncomfortably combined fertility with death as a power of the earth. The witch MEDEA, Jason’s rejected Colchian princess, used to invoke Hecate in her magic arts.
Hecate is usually portrayed with three faces. The Athenians were incredibly respectful towards her, and once a month, they placed offerings of food at crossroads, where her influence was said to be felt.
Helios was the Greek sun god and son of the Titan Hyperion. To the Romans, he was known as Sol. It was thought that Helios, after crossing the sky, sailed during the night around the earth in a golden bowl on the encircling waters of Oceanus and so arrived back in the east just before dawn.
Both the Romans and the Greeks held that the inhabited world was a large island surrounded by an ocean. Although Oceanus was sometimes described as a river, it stretched into the unimaginable distance and far from any shore.
Lelantos was a Titan god in Greek mythology, son of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. He was the brother of Leto and Asteria. His name means “the unnoticed” or “unseen one”.
Leto was the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, and she was the only few Titanesses to be worshipped in ancient Greece. However, her cult was commonly associated with her more famous son and daughter Apollo and Artemis, whose father was the sky god Zeus.
Leto may have given birth to her divine children on the sacred island of Delos, which a helpful Poseidon is said to have fastened permanently to the bottom of the sea with a giant pillar.
Later, one of Apollo’s most important temples was built on the island. Even the invading Persians respected the sanctuary when, in 490 BC, their fleet passed by on its way to punish the Eretrians and Athenians for providing aid to the Greek rebels who were fighting Persia in Asia Minor.
Prometheus was a son of the Titan Iapetus and one of the older Greek gods who sided with Zeus in the fight against his father, Cronus. His fame was due to his affection for humankind, to whom he gave fire. Zeus, the leader of the new and stronger gods, had hidden fire away, but Prometheus stole it and brought it to earth with him.
This act of betrayal to Zeus drew Prometheus into conflict with the mighty Zeus, who chained the rebellious Titan to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver. As the organ was immortal, it grew at night as fast as the bird could consume it by day.
Prometheus was only released when he gave Zeus the information that the sea Nymph Thetis, whom both Zeus and Poseidon were pursuing, would give birth to a son mightier than his father. Ensuring that Thetis married a mortal ruler, the newly victorious gods protected themselves because her son turned out to be a warrior, who will go down in the Greek mythology pantheon as Achilles, an invincible but not immortal fighter.
Art Sources: Art Station, Deviant Art.