Theia

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Theia
Member of the Titans
Pergamonmuseum - Antikensammlung - Pergamonaltar 32.jpg
In the frieze of the Great Altar of Pergamon (Berlin), the goddess who fights at Helios' back is conjectured to be Theia[1]
Other namesEuryphaessa, Aethra (probably)
Personal information
ConsortHyperion
OffspringHelios, Selene, Eos
ParentsGaia and Uranus
Siblings

In Greek mythology, Theia (/ˈθə/; Ancient Greek: Θεία, romanizedTheía, also rendered Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa "wide-shining", is a Titaness. 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 may be the same with Aethra, the consort of Hyperion and mother of his children in some accounts.[2]

Etymology[edit]

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-).

Mythology[edit]

Earliest account[edit]

The usual accounts gave her an equally primal origin, said to be the eldest daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky).[3][4][5] 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.[6][7]

Later myths[edit]

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).[8]

Pindar praises Theia in his Fifth Isthmian ode:

"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."[9]

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.

Diodorus account[edit]

An unorthodox version of the myth presented by Diodorus identified Theia as basileia ("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, Helius 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 Helius 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."[10]

Theia in the sciences[edit]

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.

Theia's alternate name Euryphaessa has been adopted for a species of Australian leafhoppers Dayus euryphaessa (Kirkaldy, 1907).

A Theia figure has been found at the Necropolis of Cyrene.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ M.M. Honan, Guide to the Pergamon Museum, Berlin 1904, etc.
  2. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132
  4. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.1.3
  5. ^ Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 17 & 31
  6. ^ Graves, Robert (1960). The Greek Myths. Harmondsworth, London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 42a. ISBN 978-0143106715.
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 371; of "cow-eyed", Karl Kerenyi observes that "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" (Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks, 1951, p. 192).
  8. ^ Homeric Hymn to Helios, 1
  9. ^ Pindar, Isthmian Odes 5.1 ff
  10. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 3.57.2-8
  11. ^ Joyce Reynolds and James Copland Thorn (2005). "Cyrene's Thea figure discovered in the Necropolis". Libyan Studies. doi:10.1017/S0263718900005525.

References[edit]