Chaos (mythology)

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In Greek mythology, Chaos, the primeval void, was the first thing which existed. According to Hesiod,[1] "at first Chaos came to be" (or was)[2] "but next" (possibly out of Chaos) came Gaia, Tartarus, and Eros.[3] Unambiguously born "from Chaos" were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night).[4]

The Greek word "chaos" (χάος), a neuter noun, means "yawning" or "gap", but what, if anything, was located on either side of this chasm is unclear.[5] For Hesiod, Chaos, like Tartarus, though personified enough to have born children, was also a place, far away, underground and "gloomy", beyond which lived the Titans.[6] And, like the earth, the ocean, and the upper air, It was also capable of being affected by Zeus' thunderbolts.[7]

For the Roman poet Ovid, Chaos was an unformed mass, where all the elements were jumbled up together in a "shapeless heap".[8]

According to Hyginus, Chaos was born of Mist, and from Chaos and Caligine, came Night, Day, Erebus and Aether.[9] An Orphic tradition apparently had Chaos as the son of Chronus and Ananke.[10]

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  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 116–122.
  2. ^ Gantz, p. 3, says "the Greek will allow both".
  3. ^ Tripp, p. 159; Morford, p. 57.
  4. ^ Gantz, p. 4; Hesiod, Theogony 123.
  5. ^ Gantz, p. 3.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 814: "And beyond, away from all the gods, live the Titans, beyond gloomy Chaos".
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 700.
  8. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.5 ff..
  9. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface. According to Bremmer, p. 5, "Hyginus ... started his Fabulae with a strange hodgepodge of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and early genealogies. It begins as follows: Ex Caligine Chaos. Ex Chao et Caligine Nox Dies Erebus Aether (Praefatio 1). His genealogy looks like a derivation from Hesiod, but it starts with the un-Hesiodic and un-Roman Caligo, ‘Darkness’. Darkness probably did occur in a cosmogonic poem of Alcman, but it seems only fair to say that it was not prominent in Greek cosmogonies."
  10. ^ Ogden, pp. 36–37.


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