Giants (Greek mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Giants or Gigantes (Greek: Γίγαντες, Gigantes, singular Gigas) were a race of great strength and aggression, though not necessarily of great size, known primarily for the Gigantomachy, their battle with the Olympian gods. According to Hesiod, they were the children of Gaia (Earth) and her husband Uranus (Sky), born from the blood that fell upon Gaia when Uranus was castrated by their son Cronus.
The name "Gigantes" can be seen to mean "earthborn", and Hesiod's Theogony makes this explicit by having the Giants be the offspring of Gaia (Earth). According to Hesiod, Gaia mating with Uranus bore many children: the first generation of Titans, the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers. But Uranus "hated" his children and, as soon as they were born, he imprisoned them inside of Gaia, causing her much distress. And so Gaia made a sickle of adamant which she gave to Cronus the youngest of her Titan sons, and hid him to wait in ambush. And when Uranus came to lie with Gaia, Cronus castrated his father, and "the bloody drops that gushed forth [Gaia] received, and as the seasons moved round she bore ... the great Giants. From these same drops of blood also came the Erinyes (Furies) and the Meliai (ash tree nymphs), while the severed genitals of Uranus falling into the sea resulted in a "white foam" from which Aphrodite "grew". Apollodorus also has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Uranus, though he makes no connection with Uranus' castration, saying instead that Gaia brought forth the Giants because of her anger over the Titans, who had been vanquished and imprisoned by the Olympians.
Homer makes three brief mentions of Giants in the Odyssey, though it's not entirely clear that he and Hesiod understood the term to mean the same thing. Homer makes Giants among the ancestors of the Phaiakians, a race of men encountered by Odysseus in the Odyssey, saying that Alcinous, the ruler of the Phaiakians, was the son of Nausithous, who was the son of Poseidon and Periboia, the daughter of the giant Eurymedon. Alcinous says that the Phaiakian, like the Cyclopes and the Giants, are "near kin" to the gods. And Odysseus describes the Laestrygonians as more like Giants than men. Pausanias, the 2nd century AD geographer, reads these lines of Homer to mean that, for Homer, the Giants were a race of mortal men.
The 6th–5th century lyric poet Bacchylides calls the Giants "sons of the Earth". Later the term "gegeneis" ("earthborn") became a common epithet of the Giants. Hyginus has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Tartarus.
Homer describes the giant Eurymedon as μεγαλήτορος ("greathearted"), and his people as ὑπερθύμοισι ("overweening") and ἀτάσθαλος ("reckless, presumptuous, wicked"). Hesiod calls the Giants κρατερῶν ("strong, stout, mighty") and μεγάλους ("great") which might or might not be a reference to their size. This passage from the Theogony also has the Giants born "with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands", though this is possibly a later addition.
Homer's comparison of the Giants to the Laestrygonians is suggestive. The Laestrygonians, who "hurled ... rocks huge as a man could lift", certainly possessed great strength, and possibly great size, as their king's wife is described as being as big as a mountain.
Under the assumption that early depictions of Zeus battling single snake-footed creatures represent his battle with Typhon, the earliest representations of Gigantes are found on votive pinakes from Corinth and Eleusis, and Attic Black-Figure pots, dating from the second quarter of the 6th cectury BC. The many Archaic and Classical representations depict the Giants as normal-sized fully human hoplites in armor (or in one case naked). The earliest representation to display a more monstrous aspect shows Giants with snakes for legs and dates to around 380 BC. The Pergamon Altar erected at the beginning of the second century BC, depicts some of its giants as serpent-footed, after which time such representations became the norm.
Gaia, incensed by the imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus by the Olympians, incited the Giants to rise up in arms against them, end their reign, and restore the Titans' rule. Led on by Alcyoneus, Polybotes, Enceladus and Porphyrion, they tested the strength of the Olympians in what is known as the Gigantomachia or Gigantomachy. The Giants Otus and Ephialtes hoped to reach the top of Mount Olympus by stacking the mountain ranges of Thessaly, Pelion, and Ossa on top of each other.
The Olympians called upon the aid of Heracles after a prophecy warned them that he was required to defeat the Giants, for the aid of a mortal was needed. Athena, instructed by Zeus, sought out Heracles and requested his participation in the battle. Heracles responded to Athena's request by shooting an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the dreaded Hydra at Alcyoneus, which made the Giant fall to the earth. However, the Giant was immortal so long as he remained in Pallene. Athena advised Heracles to drag Alcyoneus outside Pallene to make the Giant susceptible to death. Once outside Pallene, he was beaten to death by Heracles. Heracles slew not only Alcyoneus, but dealt the death blow to the Giants who had been wounded by the Olympians. The Giants who died by the hero's hands were Alcyoneus, Ephialtes, Leon, Peloreus, Porphyrion and Theodamas.
The Olympians fought the Giants with the Moirai aiding them before the aforementioned prophecy was made, meaning the Giants would have overcome the combined efforts of both Olympus and the Sisters of Fate had Heracles not fought.
This battle occurred in the time when Heracles lived, so many events had already happened: the establishment of the Olympian gods, their progeny, the adventures of Perseus (forefather of Heracles) and so on. Thus in the Gigantomachy, the Moirai and Heracles, having joined the Olympians, defeated the Giants and quelled the rebellion, confirming their reign over the earth, sea, and heaven, and confining the Giants into Tartarus. The only Giant not slain in the conflict was Aristaios, who was turned into a dung beetle by Gaia so the Giant might be safe from the wrath of the Olympians.
Whether the Gigantomachy was interpreted in ancient times as a kind of indirect "revenge of the Titans" upon the Olympians—as the Giants' reign would have been in some fashion a restoration of the age of the Titans—is not attested in any of the few literary references. Later Hellenistic poets and Latin ones tended to blur Titans and Giants.
According to the Greeks, the Giants were buried by the gods beneath the earth, where their writhing caused volcanic activity and earthquakes.
In iconic representations the Gigantomachy was a favorite theme of the Greek vase-painters of the 5th century BC.
More impressive depictions of the Gigantomachy can be found in classical sculptural relief, such as the great altar of Pergamon, where the serpent-legged giants are locked in battle with a host of gods, or in the 5th century Temple of Olympian Zeus at Acragas.
Names of the Giants
Some of the Giants identified by individual names were:
- Eurymedon: Mentioned by Homer as a king of the Giants.
- Alcyoneus: One of the strongest of the Giants, along with Porphyrion. Slain by his own grandnephew, Heracles.
- Porphyrion: One of the strongest of the Giants, along with Alcyoneus. He is referred to by Pindar as king of the Giants. Wounded by his nephew Zeus with lightning bolts and finished off with an arrow by his grandnephew Heracles.
- Agrios: Clubbed to death by his three nieces/grandnieces, the Moirai, with clubs of bronze.
- Clytius: Immolated by his niece Hecate with flaming torches.
- Enceladus: Killed by his grandniece, Athena, and buried underneath Mount Etna, like Typhon, on Sicily.
- Ephialtes (probably not the Aloadae): Shot by grandnephews Apollo and Heracles with arrows.
- Eurytus: Slain by grandnephew Dionysus with his pine-cone tipped thyrsos.
- Gration: Slain by his grandniece, the goddess Artemis with her arrows.
- Hippolytus: Slain by his grandnephew Hermes with his sword and wearing the cap of invisibility.
- Leon: the lion headed giant slain by Heracles in the giants war
- Mimas: Slain by grandnephew Hephaestus with a volley of molten iron, or slain by Ares and robbed of his armor.
- Pallas: Killed by grandniece Athena.
- Pelorus: Slain by the Olympian Ares.
- Polybotes: Crushed by nephew Poseidon beneath the island of Nisyros.
- Thoon: Clubbed to death, like Agrios, by his three nieces/grandnieces, the Moirai, with clubs of bronze.
- Damasen: Saved the nymph Moria from a drakon
- Hansen, pp. 177–179; Gantz, pp. 445–454.
- Hesiod, Theogony :185. Hyginus gives Tartarus as the father of the Giants. A parallel to the Giants' birth is the birth of Aphrodite from the similarly fertilized sea.
- Gantz, pp. 446, 447.
- Gantz, p. 453; Hammond, "Giants".
- Gantz, p.16; Merry, Homer's Odyssey 7.59
- Hesiod, Theogony 173 ff.
- Apollodorus, 1.6.1; Hansen, p. 178.
- Gantz, p. 446.
- Homer, Odyssey 7.56–63. Alcaeus and Acusilaus make the Phaiakians, like the Giants, offspring of the castration of Uranus, Gantz, p. 16.
- Homer, Odyssey 7.199–207.
- Homer, Odyssey 10.119–120.
- Pausanias, :8.29.1–4. See also Smith, "Gigantes" and Hammond, "Giants", which following Pausanias, both assert that for Homer the Giants were a "savage race of men".
- Bacchylides, 15.50 ff..
- "Gegeneis", Brills New Pauly; Crusius, p.93; Batrachomyomachia 7; Sophocles, Women of Trachis 1058; Euripides, The Phoenician Women 1131; Lycophron, Alexandra 126, 1408.
- Hyginus, Fabulae Preface.
- Homer, Odyssey 7.58; Liddell and Scott, μεγαλήτορος.
- Homer, Odyssey 7.59; Liddell and Scott, ὑπερθύμοισι.
- Homer, Odyssey 7.60; Liddell and Scott, ἀτάσθαλος.
- Hesiod, Theogony 50; Liddell and Scott κρατερός.
- Hesiod, Theogony 185; Liddell and Scott, μέγας.
- Hansen, p. 177.
- Gantz, p. 446.
- According to Gantz, p 446: "In all, the account rather suggests that the huge bulk of Antiphates' wife is not typical of the Lastrygones as a whole. But they are clearly thought of as good-sized, although whether it is in this respect that they are like the Gigantes and unlike men we cannot say; the Odyssey's emphasis might be thought to fall more on their uncivilized behjavior"
- Gantz, p. 450. For a fuller treatment of Giants in art see Schefold, p. 55 ff.
- Gantz, pp. 446, 447; the Giants on the Peisistratid Temple in Athens are mostly naked, Gantz, p. 452.
- Gantz, p. 453.
- Frazer, note to 8.29.3 "That the giants have serpents instead of feet", IV, pp. 315–316.
- Apollodorus, Library
- In a surviving fragment of Naevius' poem on the Punic war, he describes the Giants Runcus and Purpureus (Porphyrion):
- Inerant signa expressa, quo modo Titani
- bicorpores Gigantes, magnique Atlantes
- Runcus ac Purpureus filii Terras.
- A repertory of the theme in Greek arts is offered in Francis Vian, Répertoire des gigantomachie figurées (Paris) 1951 and his La Guerre des Géants (Paris) 1952.
- Odyssey 7.54 ff..
- Pindar, Pythian 8.
- Bibliotheca 1. 6. 2
- Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica III.1226–1227
- Claudian, Gigantomachy 73–82.
- 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. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Bacchylides, Odes Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien. 1991. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Brill’s New Pauly. Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Brill Online, 2014. Reference. 01 March 2014 "Gegeneis"
- Burkert, Walter (1991). Greek Religion. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0631156246.
- Euripides, The Complete Greek Drama, edited by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr. in two volumes. 2. The Phoenissae, translated by E. P. Coleridge. New York. Random House. 1938.
- Frazer, J. G., Pausanias's Description of Greece. Translated with a Commentary by J. G. Frazer. Vol IV. Commentary on Books VI-VIII, Macmillan, 1898. Google Books.
- Gantz, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0801853609 (Vol. 1)
- "Gigantes"— Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
- Hammond, N.G.L. and Howard Hayes Scullard (editors), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, second edition, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869117-3.
- Hansen, William, Handbook of Classical Mythology, ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 978-1576072264.
- 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. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Homer; The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Hyginus, Gaius Julius, The Myths of Hyginus. Edited and translated by Mary A. Grant, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.
- Lycophron, Alexandra, A.W. Mair. London: William Heinemann; New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1921. Online version (Greek) at the Perseus Digital Library, English translation,
- Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940 Online version at the Perseus Digital Library
- Merry, W. Walter, James Riddell, D, B, Monro, Homer's Odyssey, Clarendon Press. 1886-1901.
- Pausanias, Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Schefold, Karl, Luca Guiliani, Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art, Cambridge University Press, 1992 ISBN 9780521327183.
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Gigantes"
- Sophocles, Women of Trachis, Translated by Robert Torrance. Houghton Mifflin. 1966. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gigantes.|