Saturday, December 18, 2010

Creation of the World

In the begining there was only chaos. Then out of the void appeared Erebus, the unknowable place where death dwells, and Night. All else was empty, silent, endless, darkness. Then somehow Love was born bringing a start of order. From Love came Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, Gaea, the earth appeared. 
Then Erebus slept with Night, who gave birth to Ether, the heavenly light, and to Day the earthly light. Then Night alone produced Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, and others that come to man out of darkness. 
Meanwhile Gaea alone gave birth to Uranus, the heavens. Uranus became Gaea's mate covering her on all sides. Together they produced the three Cyclopes, the three Hecatoncheires, and twelve Titans. 
However, Uranus was a bad father and husband. He hated the Hecatoncheires. He imprisoned them by pushing them into the hidden places of the earth, Gaea's womb. This angered Gaea and she ploted against Uranus. She made a flint sickle and tried to get her children to attack Uranus. All were too afraid except, the youngest Titan, Cronus. 
Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush of Uranus as he lay with Gaea at night. Cronus grabed his father and castrated him, with the stone sickle, throwing the severed genitales into the ocean. The fate of Uranus is not clear. He either died, withdrew from the earth, or exiled himself to Italy. As he departed he promised that Cronus and the Titans would be punished. From his spilt blood came the Giants, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Erinnyes. From the sea foam where his genitales fell came Aphrodite. 
Cronus became the next ruler. He imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus. He married his sister Rhea, under his rule the Titans had many offspring. He ruled for many ages. However, Gaea and Uranus both had prophesied that he would be overthrown by a son. To avoid this Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born. Rhea was angry at the treatment of the children and ploted against Cronus. When it came time to give birth to her sixth child, Rhea hid herself, then she left the child to be raised by nymphs. To concel her act she wrapped a stone in swaddling cloths and passed it off as the baby to Cronus, who swallowed it. 
This child was Zeus. He grew into a handsome youth on Crete. He consulted Metis on how to defeat Cronus. She prepaired a drink for Cronus design to make him vomit up the other children. Rhea convinced Cronus to accept his son and Zeus was allowed to return to Mount Olympus as Cronus's cupbearer. This gave Zeus the opertunity to slip Cronus the specially prepaired drink. This worked as planned and the other five children were vomitted up. Being gods they were unharmed. They were thankful to Zeus and made him their leader. 
Cronus was yet to be defeated. He and the Titans, except Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Oceanus, fought to retain their power. Atlas became their leader in battle and it looked for some time as though they would win and put the young gods down. However, Zeus was cunning. He went down to Tartarus and freed the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. Prometheus joined Zeus as well. He returned to battle with his new allies. The Cyclopes provided Zeus with lighting bolts for weapons. The Hecatoncheires he set in ambush armed with boulders. With the time right, Zeus retreated drawing the Titans into the Hecatoncheires's ambush. The Hecatoncheires rained down hundreds of boulders with such a fury the Titans thought the mountains were falling on them. They broke and ran giving Zeus victory. 
Zeus exiled the Titans who had fought against him into Tartarus. Except for Atlas, who was singled out for the special punishment of holding the world on his shoulders. 
However, even after this victory Zeus was not safe. Gaea angry that her children had been imprisoned gave birth to a last offspring, Typhoeus. Typhoeus was so fearsome that most of the gods fled. However, Zeus faced the monster and flinging his lighting bolts was able to kill it. Typhoeus was burried under Mount Etna in Sicily. 
Much later a final challenge to Zeus rule was made by the Giants. They went so far as to attempt to invade Mount Olympus, piling mountain upon mountain in an effort to reach the top. But, the gods had grown strong and with the help of Heracles the Giants were subdued or killed.
The CreationII
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of this myth is the extensive use of names that seem difficult to non native Greek speakers to pronounce. This sometimes causes frustration and loss of track when trying to establish the continuing relationship between these characters in the birth of the world. So you have to be patient and try to associate these names with the characters and events that took place... 
It all started when Chaos, Gaia (Earth) and Eros started to mix with each other leading to the Gods. So In Greek mythology, the creation of the world starts with the creation of the different classes of Gods. in this case, Gods refers to the characters that ruled the Earth (without necessarily possessing any divine attributes) until the "real" Gods, the Olympians came. So after this brief introduction, the next step to examine in the creation of the world is the creation of the Gods (which really is the same thing, it's just that when you are interested in the creation of the world, you look at the very beginning of the creation of the Gods, while, to examine the creation of the Gods, you have to look a little deeper).
Hesiod's Theogony is one of the best introductions we have on the creation of the world. According to Hesiod, three major elements took part in the beginning of creation. Chaos, Gaia, and Eros. It is said that Chaos gave birth to Erebos and Night while Ouranos and Okeanos sprang from Gaia. Each child had a specific role, and Ouranos's duty was to protect Gaia. Later on, the two became a couple and
were the first Gods to rule the world. They had twelve children who where known as the Titans. Three others known as the Cyclopes, and the three hundred handed Giants. 
The situation from here on however wasn't too good. Ouranos wasn't too pleased with his offsprings because he saw them as a threat to his throne. After all, there would come a time when they would grow up, and perhaps challenge his command. Ouranos eventually decided that his children belonged deep inside Gaia, hidden from himself and his kingdom. Gaia who wasn't too pleased with this arrangement agreed at first, but, later on chose to give her solidarity to her children. She devised a plan to rid her children from their tyrant father, and supplied her youngest child Kronos with a sickle. She then arranged a meeting for the two in which Kronos cut off his father's genitals. The seed of Ouranos which fell into the sea gave birth to Aphrodite, while from his blood were created the Fates, the Giants, and the Meliai nymphs.
Kronos succeeded his father in taking over the throne and married his sister Rhea. He also freed his siblings and shared his kingdom with them.Okeanos was given the responsibility to rule over the sea and rivers, while Hyperion guided the Sun and the stars. And time went by... Sooner than later Kronos had his own children, and the very same fears that haunted his father came back to torment him as well.
Kronos eventually decided that the best way to deal with this problem was to swallow all his children.
However, what goes around comes around, and once again the mother decided it was time to free her children. Rhea, Kronos's wife, managed to save her youngest child, Zeus by tricking Kronos into swallowing a stone wrapped in clothes instead of Zeus himself.
The great Zeus was then brought up by the Nymphs in Mount Dikte in the island of Crete. In order to cover the sound of his crying, the Kouretes danced and clashed their shields. As Zeus entered manhood, he had the strength few dare dream of. He dethroned his father, and freed his siblings from his father's entrails. It was now Zeus's turn to rule the world...
According to the myths, the immortal Gods thought that it would be interesting to create beings like them, but that were mortal. They would allow these beings to inhabit the earth. As soon as the mortals were created, Zeus, the leader of the Gods, ordered the two sons of the Titan Iapetus, Prometheus and Epimetheus, to give these beings various gifts in the hope that the mortals would evolve into interesting beings, able to amuse the Gods.
So the two brothers started to divide the gifts among themselves in order to give them to the earth's inhabitants. Epimetheus asked his brother to give out the gifts first, and was granted his wish. He gave the gift of beauty to some animals, agility on other animals, strength in others, and agility and speed to some. However, he left the human race defenseless, with no natural weapons in this new kingdom. Prometheus, who liked the human race, upon realizing what had happened, promptly distributed his own gifts to mankind. He stole reason from Athena, and thus gave reason to man. He then stole fire from the gates of Hephaestus, and gave mankind this new gift, which would keep them warm. Prometheus then became the protector of the human race, and shared with it all the knowledge he had. 
This new situation angered Zeus, for fire until know had been a gift only reserved for the Gods.Zeus did not want the human race to resemble the Gods. Zeus's next step was to punish Prometheus. And a heavy punishment it was. Zeus chained Prometheus to a peak in the caucasus which was believed to be at the end of the world. He had an eagle eat his liver every single day for thirty years. At the end of each day, Prometheus' liver would grow back again, so he would have to suffer all over again. After thirty years, Heracles (Hercules) released Prometheus from his nightmare.
The Olympians refers to the twelve Gods of mount Olympus which is located in the northern central part of Greece. This mountain was believed to be sacred throughout ancient times, and, it was believed to be the highest point on earth. These Gods that ruled mount Olympus, also ruled the lives of all mankind. Each and every single God (or Goddess) had their own character and domain. Gods in mythology were very human like. They had the strengths and weaknesses of mortals (as we know them today). they were truly made to represent each and every side of human nature. They supported justice, as seen by their own point of view.
Gods even had children with mortals, which resulted in semi-gods like Hercules. The most amazing observation is how the Gods expresses human nature in its complete form. Strength, fear, unfaithfulness, love, admiration, beauty, hunting, farming, education, there was a God for every human activity and expression. These Gods weren't just ideal figures. they were beings with their own limitations. They expressed anger, jealousy and joy, just like us. Each God rules his own realm. they only true omnipotent God was Zeus, who ruled all.

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