Document belonging to the Greek Mythology Link, a web site created by Carlos Parada, author of Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology
Characters • Places • TopicsImagesBibliographyPDF Editions
About
Copyright © 1997 Carlos Parada and Maicar Förlag.

Titanomachy

liebpro01: Before becoming the ruler of heaven, Zeus had to defeat his predecessor Cronos and the TITANS. In this war (the Titanomachy), Prometheus 1, though being a titan, sided with Zeus, who is seen brandishing the thunderbolt. Liebig sets.

"... for it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends." (Prometheus 1. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 225).


Cronos dethroned his father, but as he ruled with the same evil spirit he was himself dethroned by his own son.

Uranus dethroned

It is told that Uranus, the first ruler of the universe, hated his own offspring and kept the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES imprisoned in the depth of the earth. This cruelty grieved their mother Gaia who encouraged the TITANS to revolt against their father. They did overthrow him, but the new ruler Cronos abstained from restoring justice, and shut his brethren up in the same dark depth again. Revolt breeds revolt in ever swifter succession, and that may be the reason why both Gaia and Uranus foretold Cronos that in turn he would be dethroned by his own son.
Having heard the prophecy, Cronos began to swallow his children at birth, a method that, while seeming to prevent fate, enraged his wife Rhea 1, who saw herself always pregnant and yet never a mother. So while expecting Zeus, she went to Crete, and gave him birth in a cave, giving Cronos a stone wrapped in clothes to swallow, as if it were the newborn child. This is how Zeus escaped being devoured by his father. When he had grown up, he asked Metis 1 to help him against his father, and she gave Cronos a drug that forced him to disgorge first the stone, and then the children he had previously swallowed. Some affirm that Cronos did not swallow all of them, but cast Hades in Tartarus, and Poseidon under the sea. Others assert that Rhea 1, having given birth to Poseidon, declared to Cronos that she had given birth to a horse, and gave him a foal to swallow instead of the child.
When Zeus grew to maturity, he decided to wage the war against Cronos and the TITANS, declaring that he who was without office or right under Cronos, should be raised to both office and rights. And on becoming the ruler of the universe, Zeus did not deprive Hecate of the privileges either. So Styx came first to Olympus, and together with her children rallied to his side. This is why Zeus granted her special honours, and appointed her to be the great oath of the gods (see Underworld for details about the oath), and her children Nike, Zelos, Cratos, and Bia, to live near him always.

Prisoners released

The TITANS fought from Mount Othrys, and the gods from Mount Olympus, but after ten years of continuous fight, the issue of the war hung evenly balanced. It was then that Gaia prophesied victory to Zeus if he should have as allies those who had been hurled down to Tartarus by Cronos: the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES. Cronos had imprisoned the HECATONCHEIRES because he was jealous of their manhood and comeliness, as they say. He made them live beneath the earth, being set to dwell under the ground for a long time and with great suffering. But Zeus and his brothers decided to bring them up again at Gaia's advising. Consequently, Zeus slew their jailoress Campe, and freed them. Zeus then provided the HECATONCHEIRES with nectar and ambrosia, and their spirit revived. Then he addresed them:

"Hear me, bright children of Earth and Heaven, that I may say what my heart within me bids. A long while now have we, who are sprung from Cronos and the Titan gods, fought with each other every day to get victory and to prevail. But show your great might and unconquerable strength, and face the Titans in bitter strife; for remember our friendly kindness, and from what sufferings you are come back to the light from your cruel bondage under misty gloom through our counsels." (Zeus to the HECATONCHEIRES. Hesiod, Theogony 645).

The CYCLOPES gave Zeus thunder and lightning and a thunderbolt, with which the god smote Menoetius 1 (brother of Atlas and Prometheus 1). And they gave Hades a helmet, and Poseidon a trident.

The war

It is told that during this great war the sea rang terribly, the earth crashed loudly, heaven was shaken, and Olympus reeled from its foundation: The HECATONCHEIRES held huge rocks with their hundred arms, and Zeus hurled his lightning, while the earth burned and the woods crakled with fire. The streams of Ocean seethed, and the vapor lapped round the TITANS. A huge flame rose to the upper air, and that the glare of thunderstone and lightining blinded the eyes of the TITANS. And it is said that heat seized Chaos, and that it seemed as if earth and heaven came together in a mighty crash, amid earthquakes and dust storms. But the HECATONCHEIRES overshadowed the TITANS with the many rocks that their hundred arms hurled at them, and having defeated them, they chained them as far beneath the earth as heaven is above earth. That is, in Tartarus, a place of deep darkness with a bronze fence around it that even the gods abhor.

Two TITANS who sided with Zeus

The titaness Themis sided with Zeus because she knew that neither the brute nor the violent would prevail, but the clever. Prometheus 1 listened to her words, and sided with Zeus too. However, after the war, when Zeus had Prometheus 1 chained for having given fire to mortals, he lamented his choice:

"Thus I helped the tyrant of the gods and with this foul payment he has responded; for it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends." (Prometheus 1. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 225).

The victors divide the spoil

Zeus appointed the HECATONCHEIRES to guard them, and in time Poseidon gave the hecatoncheire Briareus his daughter Cymopolea as wife. Having thus won victory, the gods cast lots for the sovereignty, and to Zeus was allotted the dominion of the sky, to Poseidon the dominion of the sea, and to Hades the dominion of the Underworld. It is also told that, as time went by, Zeus issued an amnesty and set the TITANS free, except for Atlas, who still holds the sky. A rumour has it that the TITANS, encouraged by Hera who was jealous on account of Io, once tried to mount to heaven and restore the kingdom to Cronos, but that Zeus aided by Athena, Apollo, and Artemis, cast them back to Tartarus. It is said that it was then that the gods put the vault of the sky on Atlas, for having been their leader.


Related sections Castration of Uranus, Cronos, CYCLOPES, HECATONCHEIRES, OLYMPIANS, TITANS, The Era of Zeus, Epimetheus (one-act play) 
Sources
Abbreviations

Hes.The.390, 420, 630-745; Hyg.Fab.150; Pin.Pyth.4.290.

Free counter and web stats