Gaia (mythology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gaia
Primordial Goddess of the Earth
Feuerbach Gaea.jpg
Gaia, by Anselm Feuerbach (1875)
Abode Earth
Consort Uranus, Zeus, Pontus, and Poseidon
Parents None or Chaos (Hesiod), or Aether and Hemera (Hyginus)
Siblings Eros, Erebus, Tartarus and Nyx
Children Uranus, Pontus, the Ourea, Hecatonchires, Cyclopes, Titans, The Gigantes, Nereus, Thaumus, Phorcys, Ceto, Eurybia, and Typhon
Roman equivalent Terra

In Greek mythology, Gaia (/ˈɡ.ə/ or /ˈɡ.ə/; from Ancient Greek Γαῖα, a poetical form of Γῆ, "land" or "earth";[1] also Gaea, or Ge) was the personification of the Earth,[2] one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia was the great mother of all: the primal Greek Mother Goddess; creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the Universe; the heavenly gods, the Titans, and the Giants were born to her. The gods reigning over their classical pantheon were born from her union with Uranus (the sky), while the sea-gods were born from her union with Pontus (the sea). Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra.[3]

Etymology[edit]

The Greek word γαῖα (trans. as gaia or gaea) is a collateral form of γῆ[4] (, Doric γά ga and probably δᾶ da[5][6]) meaning Earth,[7] a word of unknown origin.[8] In Mycenean Greek Ma-ka (trans. as Ma-ga: Mother Gaia) also contains the root ga-.[9][10]

Greek mythology[edit]

Hesiod[edit]

Hesiod's Theogony tells how, after Chaos, "wide-bosomed" Gaia (Earth) arose to be the everlasting seat of the immortals who possess Olympus above,[11] and the depths of Tartarus below (as some scholars interpret it).[12] He then tells that Gaia brought forth her equal Uranus (or Ouranos in Ancient Greek) (Heaven, Sky) to "cover her on every side" and to be the abode of the gods.[13] Gaia also bore the hills (ourea), and Pontus (Sea), "without sweet union of love" (i.e., with no father)[14] Afterwards with Uranus, she gave birth to the Titans, as Hesiod tells it:

She lay with Heaven and bore deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.[15]

According to Hesiod, Gaia conceived further offspring with Uranus (Ouranos), first the giant one-eyed Cyclopes: Brontes ("Thunder"), Steropes ("Lightning") and Arges ("Bright");[16] then the Hecatonchires: Cottus, Briareos and Gyges, each with a hundred arms and fifty heads.[17] As each of the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were born, Uranus hid them in a secret place within Gaia, causing her great pain. So Gaia devised a plan. She created a grey flint (or adamantine) sickle. And Cronus used the sickle to castrate his father Uranus as he approached Gaia to have intercourse with her. From Uranus' spilled blood, Gaia produced the Erinyes, the Giants and the Meliae (ash-tree nymphs). From the testicles of Uranus in the sea came forth Aphrodite.[18]

By her son Pontus, Gaia bore the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.[19]

Because Cronus had learned from Gaia and Uranus, that he was destined to be overthrown by his own child, Cronus swallowed each of the children born to him by his Titan sister Rhea. But when Rhea was pregnant with her youngest child Zeus, she sought help from Gaia and Uranus. And when Zeus was born Gaia took the child into her care, and in place of Zeus, Rhea gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling-clothes, which he swallowed.[20]

With Gaia's advice[21] Zeus defeated the Titans. But afterwards Gaia, in union with Tartarus, bore the youngest of her sons Typhon, who would be the last challenge to the authority of Zeus.[22]

Other sources[edit]

According to Hyginus, Earth (Gaia), along with Heaven and Sea were the children of Aether and Day (Hemera).[23] According to Apollodorus, Gaia and Tartarus were the parents of Echidna.[24]

Zeus hid Elara, one of his lovers, from Hera by hiding her under the earth. His son by Elara, the giant Tityos, is therefore sometimes said[by whom?] to be a son of Gaia, the earth goddess.

Gaia is believed by some sources[25] to be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi. Depending on the source, Gaia passed her powers on to Poseidon, Apollo, or Themis. Apollo is the best-known as the oracle power behind Delphi, long established by the time of Homer, having killed Gaia's child Python there and usurped the chthonic power. Hera punished Apollo for this by sending him to King Admetus as a shepherd for nine years.[citation needed]

In classical art Gaia was represented in one of two ways. In Athenian vase painting she was shown as a matronly woman only half risen from the earth, often in the act of handing the baby Erichthonius (a future king of Athens) to Athena to foster (see example below). In mosaic representations, she appears as a woman reclining upon the earth surrounded by a host of Carpi, infant gods of the fruits of the earth (see example below).[citation needed]

Gaia also made Aristaeus immortal.[citation needed]

Oaths sworn in the name of Gaia, in ancient Greece, were considered the most binding of all.[citation needed]

Children[edit]

Gaia hands her newborn, Erichthonius, to Athena as Hephaestus watches - an Attic red-figure stamnos, 470–460 BC
Aion and Gaia with four children, perhaps the personified seasons, mosaic from a Roman villa in Sentinum, first half of the third century BC, (Munich Glyptothek, Inv. W504)

Gaia is the personification of the Earth and these are her offspring as related in various myths. Some are related consistently, some are mentioned only in minor variants of myths, and others are related in variants that are considered to reflect a confusion of the subject or association.

  • By herself
  1. Uranus
  2. Pontus
  3. Ourea
  1. Cyclopes
    1. Arges
    2. Brontes
    3. Steropes
  2. Hecatonchires
    1. Briareus
    2. Cottus
    3. Gyes
  3. Titans
    1. Coeus
    2. Crius
    3. Cronus
    4. Hyperion
    5. Iapetus
    6. Mnemosyne
    7. Oceanus
    8. Phoebe
    9. Rhea
    10. Tethys
    11. Theia
    12. Themis
  4. Other
    1. Mneme
    2. Melete
    3. Aoide
    4. Gigantes*
    5. Erinyes*
    6. Meliae*
    7. Elder Muses
  1. Ceto
  2. Phorcys
  3. Eurybia
  4. Nereus
  5. Thaumas
  1. Antaeus
  2. Charybdis
  3. Laistrygon
  1. Kreousa
  2. Triptolemos
  1. Typhon
  2. Echidna (more commonly held to be child of Phorcys and Ceto)
  3. Campe (presumably)
  1. Manes
  1. Erichthonius of Athens
  1. Uranus (more commonly held to be child of Gaia alone)
  2. Aergia
  1. Pheme
  2. Cecrops
  3. Python

*Some said that those marked with a * were born from Uranus' blood when Cronus defeated him.

Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek mythology[edit]

Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek mythology
Uranus
Gaia
Oceanus
Hyperion
Coeus
Crius
Iapetus
Mnemosyne
Cronus
Rhea
Tethys
Theia
Phoebe
Themis
Zeus
Hera
Hestia
Demeter
Hades
Poseidon
Ares
Hephaestus
Hebe
Eileithyia
Enyo
Eris
Metis
Maia
Leto
Semele
Aphrodite
Athena
Hermes
Apollo
Artemis
Dionysus

Interpretations[edit]

Some modern sources, such as James Mellaart, Marija Gimbutas and Barbara Walker, claim that Gaia as Mother Earth is a later form of a pre-Indo-European Great Mother, venerated in Neolithic times. Her existence is a speculation, and controversial in the academic community. Some modern mythographers, including Karl Kerenyi, Carl A. P. Ruck and Danny Staples interpret the goddesses Demeter the "mother," Persephone the "daughter" and Hecate the "crone," as aspects of a former Great goddess identified by some[who?] as Rhea or as Gaia herself. In Crete, a goddess was worshiped as Potnia Theron (the "Mistress of the Animals") or simply Potnia ("Mistress"), speculated[by whom?] as Rhea or Gaia; the title was later applied in Greek texts to Demeter, Artemis or Athena. The mother-goddess Cybele from Anatolia (modern Turkey) was partly identified by the Greeks with Gaia, but more so with Rhea and Demeter.

Neopaganism[edit]

Many Neopagans worship Gaia. Beliefs regarding Gaia vary, ranging from the belief that Gaia is the Earth to the belief that she is the spiritual embodiment of the earth, or the Goddess of the Earth.

Modern ecological theory[edit]

Main article: Gaia hypothesis

The mythological name was revived in 1979 by James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth; his Gaia hypothesis was supported by Lynn Margulis. The hypothesis proposes that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shapes the Earth's biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches, the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions. Further books by Lovelock and others popularized the Gaia Hypothesis, which was widely embraced and passed into common usage as part of the heightened awareness of environmental concerns of the 1990s.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. "γαῖα". A Greek-English Lexicon{{inconsistent citations}} 
  2. ^ Smith, "Gaea" .
  3. ^ Larousse Desk Reference Encyclopedia, The Book People, Haydock, 1995, p. 215.
  4. ^ γῆ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ γά, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. ^ δᾶ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  7. ^ γαῖα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  8. ^ Gaia, Online etymology dictionary
  9. ^ Beekes.Greek Etymological Dictionary
  10. ^ "Paleolexicon". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 116–118.
  12. ^ Hesiod, Theogony, 119. Translated by Glenn W. Most in Loeb Classical Library
  13. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 126–128.
  14. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 129–132.
  15. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132–138.
  16. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 139–146.
  17. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 147–153.
  18. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 154–200.
  19. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 233–239.
  20. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 453–491.
  21. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 626.
  22. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 820–880.
  23. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface.
  24. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.1.2
  25. ^ Joseph Fontenrose 1959

References[edit]

  • Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921
  • Fontenrose, Joseph, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959; reprint 1980
  • Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
  • Kerenyi, Karl, The Gods of the Greeks 1951
  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth, 1994.
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Gaea"

External links[edit]