Goddess of Sight and Brilliance
|Member of the Titans|
|Other names||Euryphaessa, Aethra, Basileia|
|Parents||Gaia and Uranus|
|Offspring||Helios, Selene, Eos|
In Greek mythology, Theia (//; Ancient Greek: Θεία, romanized: Theía, lit. 'divine', also rendered Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa (Ancient Greek: Εὐρυφάεσσα) "wide-shining", is one of the twelve Titans, the children of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus. She is the Greek goddess of sight and vision, and by extension the goddess who endowed gold, silver and gems with their brilliance and intrinsic value. Her brother-consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn). She seems to be the same with Aethra, the consort of Hyperion and mother of his children in some accounts. Like her husband, Theia features scarcely in myth, being mostly important for the children she bore, though she appears in some texts and rare traditions.
The name Theia alone means simply "goddess" or "divine"; Theia Euryphaessa (Θεία Εὐρυφάεσσα) brings overtones of extent (εὐρύς, eurys, "wide", root: εὐρυ-/εὐρε-) and brightness (φάος, phaos, "light", root: φαεσ-).
The usual accounts gave her an equally primal origin, said to be the eldest daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky). She is thus the sister of the Titans (Oceanus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Coeus, Themis, Rhea, Phoebe, Tethys, Mnemosyne, Cronus and sometimes Dione), the Cyclopes, the Hecatoncheires, the Giants, the Meliae, the Erinyes, and the half-sister of Aphrodite (in some versions), Typhon, Python, Pontus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Nereus, Eurybia and Ceto. By her brother-husband Hyperion she is the mother of Helios, Selene and Eos. Robert Graves also relates that later Theia is referred to as the cow-eyed Euryphaessa who gave birth to Helios in myths dating to classical antiquity.
Once paired in later myths with her Titan brother Hyperion as her husband, "mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one" of the Homeric Hymn to Helios, was said to be the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn). Gaius Valerius Catullus described those three lights of the heavens as "Theia's illustrious progeny" in the sixty-sixth of his carmina.
Mother of the Sun, Theia of many names, for your sake men honor gold as more powerful than anything else; and through the value you bestow on them, o queen, ships contending on the sea and yoked teams of horses in swift-whirling contests become marvels.
She seems here a goddess of glittering in particular and of glory in general, but Pindar's allusion to her as "Theia of many names" is telling, since it suggests assimilation, referring not only to similar mother-of-the-sun goddesses such as Phoebe and Leto, but perhaps also to more universalizing mother-figures such as Rhea and Cybele. Furthermore, a scholium on those lines wrote ἐκ Θείας καὶ Ὑπερίονος ὁ Ἥλιος, ἐκ δὲ Ἡλίου ὁ χρυσός, denoting a special connection of Theia, the goddess of sight and brilliance, with gold as the mother of Helios the sun. Theia was regarded as the goddess from which all light proceeded.
Plutarch wrote a fable-like story (which is sometimes categorized as an Aesop's fable) where Theia's daughter Selene asked her mother to weave her a garment to fit her measure; the mother, who goes unnamed, then replied that she was unable to do so, as Selene kept changing shape and size, sometimes full, then crescent-shaped and others yet half her size, never staying the same.
According to sixth century BC lyric poet Stesichorus, Theia lives with her son in his palace. In the east Gigantomachy frieze of the Pergamon Altar, the figure of the goddess preserved fighting a youthful giant next to Helios is conjectured to be his mother Theia.
An unorthodox version of the myth presented by Diodorus identified Theia as Basileia ("queen", "royal palace") with the following account:
- To Uranus were also born daughters, the two eldest of whom were by far the most renowned above all the others and were called Basileia and Rhea, whom some also named Pandora. Of these daughters Basileia, who was the eldest and far excelled the others in both prudence and understanding, reared all her brothers, showing them collectively a mother's kindness; consequently she was given the appellation of 'Great Mother'; and after her father had been translated from among men into the circle of the gods, with the approval of the masses and of her brothers she succeeded to the royal dignity, though she was still a maiden and because of her exceedingly great chastity had been unwilling to unite in marriage with any man. But later, because of her desire to leave sons who should succeed to the throne, she united in marriage with Hyperion, one of her brothers, for whom she had the greatest affection. And when there were born to her two children, Helios and Selene, who were greatly admired for both their beauty and their chastity, the brothers of Basileia, they say, being envious of her because of her happy issue of children and fearing that Hyperion would divert the royal power to himself, committed an utterly impious deed; for entering into a conspiracy among themselves they put Hyperion to the sword, and casting Helius, who was still in years a child, into the Eridanus river, drowned him. When this crime came to light, Selene, who loved her brother very greatly, threw herself down from the roof, but as for his mother, while seeking his body along the river, her strength left her and falling into a swoon she beheld a vision in which she thought that Helius stood over her and urged her not to mourn the death of her children; for, he said, the Titans would meet the punishment which they deserve, while he and his sister would be transformed, by some divine providence, into immortal natures, since that which had formerly been called the 'holy fire' in the heavens would be called by men Helius ('the sun') and that addressed as 'mene' would be called Selene ('the moon'). When she was aroused from the swoon she recounted to the common crowd both the dream and the misfortunes which had befallen her, asking that they render to the dead honours like those accorded to the gods and asserting that no man should thereafter touch her body. And after this she became frenzied, and seizing such of her daughter's playthings as could make a noise, she began to wander over the land, with her hair hanging free, inspired by the noise of the kettledrums and cymbals, so that those who saw her were struck with astonishment. And all men were filled with pity at her misfortune and some were clinging to her body, when there came a mighty storm and continuous crashes of thunder and lightning; and in the midst of this Basileia passed from sight, whereupon the crowds of people, amazed at this reversal of fortune, transferred the names and the honours of Helios and Selene to the stars of the sky, and as for their mother, they considered her to be a goddess and erected altars to her, and imitating the incidents of her life by the pounding of the kettledrums and the clash of the cymbals they rendered unto her in this way sacrifices and all other honours.
Theia in the sciences
Theia's mythological role as the mother of the Moon goddess Selene is alluded to in the application of the name to a hypothetical planet which, according to the giant impact hypothesis, collided with the Earth, resulting in the Moon's creation, paralleling the mythological Theia's role as the mother of Selene.
Theia's alternate name Euryphaessa has been adopted for a species of Australian leafhoppers Dayus euryphaessa (Kirkaldy, 1907).
|Theia's family tree, according to Hesiod's Theogony|
- LIMC 617 (Theia 1); Kunze, pp. 916–917; Honan, p. 20.
- Daly & Rengel 1992, p. 153.
- Hyginus, Fabulae Preface.
- Hesiod, Theogony 132–138; Apollodorus, 1.1.3; Gantz, p. 10; Hard, p. 37; Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 133–137; Tripp, s.v. Theia; Grimal, s.v. Theia; Smith, s.v. Theia.
- Hesiod, Theogony 371–374; Apollodorus, 1.2.2; Scholia on Pindar, Isthmian 5.2 (Drachmann, pp. 242–243); Gantz, p. 30; Hard p. 43; Morford, p. 40; Kerenyi, p. 22; Tripp, s.v. Theia; Grimal, s.v. Theia; Smith, s.v. Theia.
- Graves, Robert (1960). The Greek Myths. Harmondsworth, London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 42a. ISBN 978-0143106715.
- Hesiod, Theogony 371-374; of "cow-eyed", Károly Kerényi observes, "these names recall such names as Europa and Pasiphae, or Pasiphaessa—names of moon-goddesses who were associated with bulls. In the mother of Helios we can recognize the moon-goddess, just as in his father Hyperion we can recognise the sun-god himself" (Kerényi, The Gods of the Greeks, 1951, p. 192).
- Homeric Hymn to Helios 1-8; Gantz, p. 30; Tripp, s.v. Theia.
- Catullus, Odes 66.44
- Pindar, Isthmian Odes 5.1 ff
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- Pindar (1892). Isthmian odes of Pindar, edited with introduction and commentary by J. B. Bury, M.A. Translated by J. B. Bury. Macmillan and Co. p. 92.
- Smith, s.v. Theia
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- 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.
- 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.
- According to Plato, Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito.
- 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.
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