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The Titan of Mortality
Member of the Titans
ParentsUranus and Gaia
  • Briareos
  • Cottus
  • Gyges
Other siblings
ConsortAsia or Clymene
OffspringAtlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menoetius, Anchiale, Buphagus

In Greek mythology, Iapetus (/ˈæpɪtəs/; eye-AP-ih-təs;[1] Ancient Greek: Ἰαπετός, romanizedIapetós),[2] also Japetus, is a Titan, the son of Uranus and Gaia[3] and father of Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoetius. He was also called the father of Buphagus[4] and Anchiale[5] in other sources.

Iapetus was linked to Japheth (Hebrew: יֶפֶת), one of the sons of Noah and a progenitor of mankind in biblical accounts. The practice by early historians and biblical scholars of identifying various historical nations and ethnic groups as descendants of Japheth, together with the similarity of their names, led to a fusion of their identities, from the early modern period to the present.[6][7]



Iapetus ("the Piercer")[citation needed] is the one Titan mentioned by Homer in the Iliad as being in Tartarus with Cronus. He is a brother of Cronus, who ruled the world during the Golden Age but is now locked up in Tartarus along with Iapetus, where neither breeze nor light of the sun reaches them.[8]

Iapetus' wife is usually described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys named either Clymene (according to Hesiod[9] and Hyginus) or Asia (according to Apollodorus).

In Hesiod's Works and Days, Prometheus is addressed as "son of Iapetus", and no mother is named. However, in Hesiod's Theogony, Clymene is listed as Iapetus' wife and the mother of Prometheus. In Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is son of the goddess Themis with no father named (but still with at least Atlas as a brother). However, in Horace's Odes, in Ode 1.3 Horace writes "audax Iapeti genus ... Ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit" ("The bold offspring of Iapetus [i.e. Prometheus] ... brought fire to peoples by wicked deceit").

Hesiod and other Greek scholars regarded the sons of Iapetus as mankind's ancestors and as such, some of humanity's worst qualities were said to have been inherited from these four gods, each of whom were described with a particular moral fault that often led to their own downfall. For instance, sly and clever Prometheus could perhaps represent crafty scheming; the inept and guileless Epimetheus, foolish stupidity; the enduring, strongest and powerful Atlas, excessive daring; and the arrogant Menoetius, rash violence.[10]

Iapetus as the progenitor of mankind has been equated with Japheth (יֶפֶת), the son of Noah, based on the similarity of their names and the tradition, reported by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews), which made Japheth the ancestor of the "Japhetites", i.e. the Indo-European speaking peoples. Iapetus was linked to Japheth by 17th-century theologian Matthew Poole[11] (and more recently by Robert Graves)[12] and by John Pairman Brown.[13]


Iapetus's family tree[14]
The RiversThe OceanidsHeliosSelene[15]EosAstraeusPallasPerses
IAPETUSClymene (or Asia)[16]Mnemosyne(Zeus)Themis
Atlas[17]MenoetiusPrometheus[18]EpimetheusThe MusesThe Horae


  1. ^ Wells, John (14 April 2010). "Iapetus and tonotopy". John Wells's phonetic blog. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  2. ^ Of uncertain etymology; R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a pre-Greek origin (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 573–4).
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 135; Diodorus Siculus, 5.66.3; Clement of Alexandria, Recognitions 31; Apollodorus, 1.1.3
  4. ^ Pausanias, 8.27.17
  5. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Anchiale
  6. ^ Alexander, Philip (1988). "Retelling the Old Testament". In Carson, D. A.; Williamson, H. G. M. (eds.). It is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 99–121. ISBN 9780521323475.
  7. ^ Haaland, Gunnar (2011). "Convenient Fiction Or Causal Factor? The Questioning Of Jewish Antiquity According To Against Apion 1.2". In Pastor, Jack; Stern, Pnina; Mor, Menahem (eds.). Flavius Josephus: Interpretation and history. Leiden: Brill. pp. 163–175. ISBN 978-90-04-19126-6.
  8. ^ Homer, Iliad 8.478–481
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 507
  10. ^ Smiley, Charles N. "Hesiod as an Ethical and Religious Teacher", The Classical Journal, vol. XVII, 1922; pg. 514
  11. ^ Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1685), vol.1, 26
  12. ^ Robert Graves, The Greek Myths vol. 1 p. 146
  13. ^ John Pairman Brown, Israel and Hellas (1995), 82
  14. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132–138, 337–411, 453–520, 901–906, 915–920; Caldwell, pp. 8–11, tables 11–14.
  15. ^ Although usually the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, as in Hesiod, Theogony 371–374, in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (4), 99–100, Selene is instead made the daughter of Pallas the son of Megamedes.
  16. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 507–511, Clymene, one of the Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, at Hesiod, Theogony 351, was the mother by Iapetus of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus, while according to Apollodorus, 1.2.3, another Oceanid, Asia was their mother by Iapetus.
  17. ^ According to Plato, Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito.
  18. ^ In Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 18, 211, 873 (Sommerstein, pp. 444–445 n. 2, 446–447 n. 24, 538–539 n. 113) Prometheus is made to be the son of Themis.