THE COMING OF THE GODS


"At first there was Chaos -- a vast, seething confusion. There were no limits or bounds in the world, there was no plan or outline. It was all a tremendous disorder, but in it were hidden all things that now exist.

Gradually, after a long lapse of ages, Chaos ceased to be mere darkness and confusion. It resolved itself into two great beings, two majestic deities -- Gaea, or Mother Earth, and Uranus, or the Overhanging Heavens. But a constant memory of Chaos remained and still remains in Night, the mysterious darkness in which Chaos lived.

From the marriage of Gaea and Uranus many children were born. Some of the children were very beautiful; others were terrifying monsters. THe former were called Titans. They were twelve in number and of great size and strength; like men, only much grander. Among the most famous of them were Oceanus and Tethys, who ruled the sea; Hyperion and Thea, deities of the sun and moon; Rhea, later known as the "Great Mother"; Themis, gaurdian of law and justice; Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, and Cronus, youngest and most powerful of them all. The monsters born to Gaea and Uranus were of two kinds. Three of them had each a hundred hands. Three others had each only one eye. The former were called Hecatoncheires, the latter Cyclopes.

Now Uranus hated all his children, but above all he hated the six monsters, and he therefore confined them in the lower regions of the earth, called Tariarus. Mother Earth, to whom none of her brood was hateful, was angry at the imprisonment of six of her children, and she called upon the Titans to help her against their father. None would help her except Cronus (whom the Romans held to be the same as their Saturn). He took a sharp sickle and slew his father. From the blood of Uranus sprang the giants, more like men than gods, who wore the skins of wild beasts, and who were fierce fighters. From his blood sprang, too, the Furies, or Eumenides, whose hair was writhing serpents.

Having overthrown his father, Cronus seized the rule of the world. He took Rhea to be his wife, and divided his empire among his fellow Titans. But his own reign came in time to an end. He feared that a fate similar to that of his father would overtake him, and so he swallowed each of his children as it was born -- three daughters, Vesta, Ceres, and Juno; and three sons, Pluto, Neptune, and Jupiter. At least, he thought he had swallowed Jupiter, but when it came to the turn of their youngest born Rhea cunningly substituted a stone in place of the infant.

Jupiter was secretly conveyed to the island of Crete, and there the nymphs Ida and Adrastea fed him on the milk of the goat Amalthaea. When Jupiter attained full growth and strength, he resolved to conquer Cronus. With the aid of Gaea he managed to make Cronus disgorge the five deities he had swallowed; and then with the help of these he made war on the ancient god. On the side of Cronus were ranged almost all the Titans; on the side of Jupiter were not only his brothers and sisters, but also the hundred-handed and one-eyed monsters, whom Cronus, like Uranus, had confined in Tartarus. The Cyclopes, in gratitude for their release by Jupiter, forged for him the thunderbolt and the lightning. The Hecatoncheires, on the other hand, provided him with the shock of earthquakes as a weapon.

On one mountain stood the old gods, and on another the young gods. For ages the war lasted, and every time a battle took place the whole earth shook with their tremendous battle cries. Jupiter hurled thunderbolt on thunderbolt. The forests burst into flames, the rivers boiled, the very skies were scorched. At last the Titans could withstand the might of Jupiter no longer. They were hurled in fire from their mountain stronghold. The young gods pursued and overcame them. Most of the Titans were confined in Tartarus. The son of one of them, Atlas, was assigned the task of bearing the world on his shoulders forever. Another Titan's two sons, Prometheus and Epimetheus, who had refued to take arms against Jupiter, likewise escaped imprisonment; and for a time Prometheus was the chief adviser of Jupiter.

Now the gods divided he world among themselves. To Jupiter (Greek: Zeus; also called Jove by the Romans) was given the overlordship of gods and men, and he was to rule as king on their mountain stronghold, Mount Olympus. As his queen Jupiter chose Juno (Greek: Hera). Neptune (Greek: Poseidon) was assigned the government of the ocean. To Pluto (sometimes called Hades) went the sway of the underworld. Vesta (Greek: Hestia) became goddess of hearth and home, Ceres (Greek: Demeter) goddess of agriculture."

-- An exerpt from Herzberg's MYTHS AND THEIR MEANING

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Ali Bajwa
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