Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Fall of the Titans by Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1596–1598)

In Greek mythology, the Titans (Ancient Greek: οἱ Τῑτᾶνες, hoi Tītânes, singular: ὁ Τῑτᾱ́ν, -ήν, ho Tītân) were the pre-Olympian gods.[1] According to the Theogony of Hesiod, they were the twelve children of the primordial parents Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth), with six male Titans—Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Cronus—and six female Titans, called the Titanides (αἱ Τῑτᾱνῐ́δες, hai Tītānídes) or TitanessesTheia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.

After Cronus mated with his older sister Rhea, she bore the first generation of Olympians: the six siblings Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. Certain descendants of the Titans, such as Prometheus, Atlas, Helios, and Leto, are sometimes also called Titans.

The Titans were the former gods: the generation of gods preceding the Olympians. They were overthrown as part of the Greek succession myth, which tells how Cronus seized power from his father Uranus and ruled the cosmos with his fellow Titans before being in turn defeated and replaced as the ruling pantheon of gods by Zeus and the Olympians in a ten-year war called "the Titanomachy" (Ancient Greek: ἡ Τῑτᾱνομαχίᾱ, romanizedhē Tītānomakhíā, lit.'a battle of Titans'). As a result of this war, the vanquished Titans were banished from the upper world and held imprisoned under guard in Tartarus. Some Titans were apparently allowed to remain free.


Cronus armed with sickle; image derived from a carved gem (Aubin-Louis Millin de Grandmaison, Galerie mythologique, 1811).

Hesiod's genealogy[edit]

According to Hesiod, the Titan offspring of Uranus and Gaia were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, and Cronus.[2] Eight of the Titan brothers and sisters married each other: Oceanus and Tethys, Coeus and Phoebe, Hyperion and Theia, and Cronus and Rhea. The other two Titan brothers married outside their immediate family. Iapetus married his niece Clymene, the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, while Crius married his half-sister Eurybia, the daughter of Gaia and Pontus. The two remaining Titan sisters, Themis and Mnemosyne, became wives of their nephew Zeus.

From Oceanus and Tethys came the three thousand river gods, and three thousand Oceanid nymphs.[3] From Coeus and Phoebe came Leto, another wife of Zeus, and Asteria.[4] From Crius and Eurybia came Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses.[5] From Hyperion and Theia came the celestial personifications Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn).[6] From Iapetus and Clymene came Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.[7] From Cronus and Rhea came the Olympians: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus.[8] By Zeus, Themis bore the three Horae (Hours), and the three Moirai (Fates),[9] and Mnemosyne bore the nine Muses.[10]

While the descendants of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys, Cronus and Rhea, Themis, and Mnemosyne (i.e. the river gods, the Oceanids, the Olympians, the Horae, the Moirai, and the Muses) are not normally considered to be Titans, descendants of the other Titans, notably: Leto, Helios, Atlas, and Prometheus, are themselves sometimes referred to as Titans.[11]


Rhea, both sister and wife to Cronus.

Passages in a section of the Iliad called the Deception of Zeus suggest the possibility that Homer knew of a tradition in which Oceanus and Tethys (rather than Uranus and Gaia, as in Hesiod) were the parents of the Titans.[18] Twice Homer has Hera describe the pair as "Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung, and mother Tethys", while in the same passage Hypnos describes Oceanus as "from whom they all are sprung".[19]

Plato, in his Timaeus, provides a genealogy (probably Orphic) which perhaps reflected an attempt to reconcile this apparent divergence between Homer and Hesiod, with Uranus and Gaia as the parents of Oceanus and Tethys, and Oceanus and Tethys as the parents of Cronus and Rhea "and all that go with them", plus Phorcys.[20] In his Cratylus, Plato quotes Orpheus as saying that Oceanus and Tethys were "the first to marry", possibly also reflecting an Orphic theogony in which Oceanus and Tethys, rather than Uranus and Gaia, were the primeval parents.[21] To Hesiod's twelve Titans, the mythographer Apollodorus, adds a thirteenth Titan, Dione, the mother of Aphrodite by Zeus.[22] Plato's inclusion of Phorkys, apparently, as a Titan, and the mythographer Apollodorus's inclusion of Dione, suggests an Orphic tradition in which the canonical twelve Titans consisted of Hesiod's twelve with Phorkys and Dione taking the place of Oceanus and Tethys.[23]

The Roman mythographer Hyginus, in his somewhat confused genealogy,[24] after listing as offspring of Aether (Upper Sky) and Earth (Gaia), Ocean [Oceanus], Themis, Tartarus, and Pontus, next lists "the Titans", followed by two of Hesiod's Hundred-Handers: Briareus and Gyges, one of Hesiod's three Cyclopes: Steropes, then continues his list with Atlas, Hyperion and Polus, Saturn [Cronus], Ops [Rhea], Moneta, Dione, and the three Furies: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone.[25] The geographer Pausanias, mentions seeing the image of a man in armor, who was supposed to be the Titan Anytos, who was said to have raised the Arcadian Despoina.[26]

Former gods[edit]

The Titans, as a group, represent a pre-Olympian order.[27] Hesiod uses the expression "the former gods" (theoi proteroi) in reference to the Titans.[28] They were the banished gods, who were no longer part of the upper world.[29] Rather they were the gods who dwelt underground in Tartarus,[30] and as such, they may have been thought of as "gods of the underworld", who were the antithesis of, and in opposition to, the Olympians, the gods of the heavens.[31] Hesiod called the Titans "earth-born" (chthonic),[32] and in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Hera prays to the Titans "who dwell beneath the earth", calling on them to aid her against Zeus, just as if they were chthonic spirits.[33] In a similar fashion, in the Iliad, Hera, upon swearing an oath by the underworld river Styx, "invoked by name all the gods below Tartarus, that are called Titans" as witnesses.[34]

They were the older gods, but not, apparently, as was once thought, the old gods of an indigenous group in Greece, historically displaced by the new gods of Greek invaders. Rather, they were a group of gods, whose mythology at least, seems to have been borrowed from the Near East (see "Near East origins," below).[35] These imported gods gave context and provided a backstory for the Olympian gods, explaining where these Greek Olympian gods had come from, and how they had come to occupy their position of supremacy in the cosmos. The Titans were the previous generation, and family of gods, whom the Olympians had to overthrow, and banish from the upper world, in order to become the ruling pantheon of Greek gods.

For Hesiod, possibly in order to match the twelve Olympian gods, there were twelve Titans: six males and six females, with some of Hesiod's names perhaps being mere poetic inventions, so as to arrive at the right number.[36] In Hesiod's Theogony, apart from Cronus, the Titans play no part at all in the overthrow of Uranus, and we only hear of their collective action in the Titanomachy, their war with the Olympians.[37] As a group, they have no further role in conventional Greek myth, nor do they play any part in Greek cult.[38]

As individuals, few of the Titans have any separate identity.[39] Aside from Cronus, the only other figure Homer mentions by name as being a Titan is Iapetus.[40] Some Titans seem only to serve a genealogical function, providing parents for more important offspring: Coeus and Phoebe as the parents of Leto, the mother, by Zeus, of the Olympians Apollo and Artemis; Hyperion and Theia as the parents of Helios, Selene and Eos; Iapetus as the father of Atlas and Prometheus; and Crius as the father of three sons Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses, who themselves seem only to exist to provide fathers for more important figures such as the Anemoi (Winds), Nike (Victory), and Hecate.


The Titans play a key role in an important part of Greek mythology, the succession myth.[41] It told how the Titan Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, overthrew Uranus, and how in turn Zeus, by waging and winning a great ten-year war pitting the new gods against the old gods, called the Titanomachy ("Titan war"), overthrew Cronus and his fellow Titans, and was eventually established as the final and permanent ruler of the cosmos.[42]


The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn: fresco by Giorgio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi, c. 1560 (Sala di Cosimo I, Palazzo Vecchio)

According to the standard version of the succession myth, given in Hesiod's Theogony, Uranus initially produced eighteen children with Gaia: the twelve Titans, the three Cyclopes, and the three Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handers),[43] but hating them,[44] he hid them away somewhere inside Gaia.[45] Angry and in distress, Gaia fashioned a sickle made of adamant and urged her children to punish their father. Only her son Cronus was willing.[46] So Gaia hid Cronus in "ambush", gave him an adamantine sickle, and when Uranus came to lie with Gaia, Cronus reached out and castrated his father.[47] This enabled the Titans to be born and Cronus to assume supreme command of the cosmos, with the Titans as his subordinates.[48]

Rhea presenting Cronus the stone wrapped in cloth

Cronus, having now taken over control of the cosmos from Uranus, wanted to ensure that he maintained control. Uranus and Gaia had prophesied to Cronus that one of Cronus' own children would overthrow him, so when Cronus married Rhea, he made sure to swallow each of the children she birthed. This he did with the first five: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon (in that order), to Rhea's great sorrow.[49] However, when Rhea was pregnant with Zeus, Rhea begged her parents Gaia and Uranus to help her save Zeus. So they sent Rhea to Lyctus on Crete to bear Zeus, and Gaia took the newborn Zeus to raise, hiding him deep in a cave beneath Mount Aigaion.[50] Meanwhile, Rhea gave Cronus a huge stone wrapped in baby's clothes which he swallowed thinking that it was another of Rhea's children.[51]

"Fall of the Titans". Oil on canvas by Jacob Jordaens, 1638.

Zeus, now grown, forced Cronus (using some unspecified trickery of Gaia) to disgorge his other five children.[52] Zeus then released his uncles the Cyclopes (apparently still imprisoned beneath the earth, along with the Hundred-Handers, where Uranus had originally confined them) who then provide Zeus with his great weapon, the thunderbolt, which had been hidden by Gaia.[53] A great war was begun, the Titanomachy, for control of the cosmos. The Titans fought from Mount Othrys, while the Olympians fought from Mount Olympus.[54] In the tenth year of that great war, following Gaia's counsel, Zeus released the Hundred-Handers, who joined the war against the Titans, helping Zeus to gain the upper hand. Zeus cast the fury of his thunderbolt at the Titans, defeating them and throwing them into Tartarus,[55] with the Hundred-Handers as their guards.[56]


Only brief references to the Titans and the succession myth are found in Homer.[57] In the Iliad, Homer tells us that "the gods ... that are called Titans" reside in Tartarus.[58] Specifically, Homer says that "Iapetus and Cronos ... have joy neither in the rays of Helios Hyperion [the Sun] nor in any breeze, but deep Tartarus is round about them",[59] and further, that Zeus "thrust Cronos down to dwell beneath earth and the unresting sea."[60]

Other early sources[edit]

Brief mentions of the Titanomachy and the imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus also occur in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound.[61] In the Hymn, Hera, angry at Zeus, calls upon the "Titan gods who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartarus, and from whom are sprung both gods and men".[62]

In Prometheus Bound, Prometheus (the son of the Titan Iapetus) refers to the Titanomachy, and his part in it:

When first the heavenly powers were moved to wrath, and mutual dissension was stirred up among them—some bent on casting Cronus from his seat so Zeus, in truth, might reign; others, eager for the contrary end, that Zeus might never win mastery over the gods—it was then that I, although advising them for the best, was unable to persuade the Titans, children of Heaven and Earth; but they, disdaining counsels of craft, in the pride of their strength thought to gain the mastery without a struggle and by force. ... That it was not by brute strength nor through violence, but by guile that those who should gain the upper hand were destined to prevail. And though I argued all this to them, they did not pay any attention to my words. With all that before me, it seemed best that, joining with my mother, I should place myself, a welcome volunteer, on the side of Zeus; and it is by reason of my counsel that the cavernous gloom of Tartarus now hides ancient Cronus and his allies within it.[63]


The mythographer Apollodorus, gives a similar account of the succession myth to Hesiod's, but with a few significant differences.[64] According to Apollodorus, there were thirteen original Titans, adding the Titaness Dione to Hesiod's list.[65] The Titans (instead of being Uranus' firstborn as in Hesiod) were born after the three Hundred-Handers and the three Cyclopes,[66] and while Uranus imprisoned these first six of his offspring, he apparently left the Titans free. Not just Cronus, but all the Titans, except Oceanus, attacked Uranus. After Cronus castrated Uranus, the Titans freed the Hundred-Handers and Cyclopes (unlike in Hesiod, where they apparently remained imprisoned), and made Cronus their sovereign,[67] who then reimprisoned the Hundred-Handers and Cyclopes in Tartarus.[68]

Although Hesiod does not say how Zeus was eventually able to free his siblings, according to Apollodorus, Zeus was aided by Oceanus' daughter Metis, who gave Cronus an emetic which forced him to disgorge his children that he had swallowed.[69] According to Apollodorus, in the tenth year of the ensuing war, Zeus learned from Gaia, that he would be victorious if he had the Hundred-Handers and the Cyclopes as allies. So Zeus slew their warder Campe (a detail not found in Hesiod) and released them, and in addition to giving Zeus his thunderbolt (as in Hesiod), the Cyclopes also gave Poseidon his trident, and Hades a helmet, and "with these weapons the gods overcame the Titans, shut them up in Tartarus, and appointed the Hundred-handers their guards".[70]


The Roman mythographer Hyginus, in his Fabulae, gives an unusual (and perhaps confused) account of the Titanomachy.[71] According to Hyginus the Titanomachy came about because of a dispute between Jupiter and Juno (the Roman equivalents of Zeus and Hera). Juno, Jupiter's jealous wife, was angry at her husband, on account of Jupiter's son Epaphus by Io (one of her husband's many lovers). Because of this Juno incited the Titans to rebel against Jupiter and restore Saturn (Cronus) to the kingship of the gods. Jupiter, with the help of Minerva (Athena), Apollo, and Diana (Artemis), put down the rebellion, and hurled the Titans (as in other accounts) down to Tartarus.

After the Titanomachy[edit]

Oceanus, Trevi Fountain, Rome

After being overthrown in the Titanomachy, Cronus and his fellow vanquished Titans were cast into Tartarus:

That is where the Titan gods are hidden under murky gloom by the plans of the cloud-gatherer Zeus, in a dank place, at the farthest part of huge earth. They cannot get out, for Poseidon has set bronze gates upon it, and a wall is extended on both sides.[72]

However, besides Cronus, exactly which of the other Titans were supposed to have been imprisoned in Tartarus is unclear.[73] The only original Titan, mentioned by name, as being confined with Cronus in Tartarus, is Iapetus.[74]

But, not all the Titans were imprisoned there. Certainly Oceanus, the great world encircling river, seems to have remained free, and in fact, seems not to have fought on the Titans' side at all.[75] In Hesiod, Oceanus sends his daughter Styx, with her children Zelus (Envy), Nike (Victory), Kratos (Power), and Bia (Force), to fight on Zeus' side against the Titans,[76] while in the Iliad, Hera says that, during the Titanomachy, she was cared for by Oceanus and his wife the Titaness Tethys.[77] Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, has Oceanus free to visit his nephew Prometheus sometime after the war.[78] Like Oceanus, Helios, the Titan son of Hyperion, certainly remained free to drive his sun-chariot daily across the sky, taking an active part in events subsequent to the Titanomachy.[79] The freedom of Oceanus, along with Helios (Sun), and perhaps Hyperion (to the extent that he also represented the Sun), would seem to be the result of cosmological necessity, for how could a world encircling river, or the Sun, be confined in Tartarus?[80]

The Torture of Prometheus, painting by Salvator Rosa (1646–1648).

As for other male offspring of the Titans, some seem to have participated in the Titanomachy, and were punished as a result, and others did not, or at least (like Helios) remained free. Three of Iapetus' sons, Atlas, Menoetius, and Prometheus are specifically connected by ancient sources with the war. In the Theogony both Atlas and Menoetius received punishments from Zeus, but Hesiod does not say for what crime exactly they were punished.[81] Atlas was famously punished by Zeus, by being forced to hold up the sky on his shoulders, but none of the early sources for this story (Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, and Aeschylus) say that his punishment was as a result of the war.[82] According to Hyginus however, Atlas led the Titans in a revolt against Zeus (Jupiter).[83] The Theogony has Menoetius struck down by Zeus' thunderbolt and cast into Erebus "because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride".[84] Whether Hesiod was using Erebus as another name for Tartarus (as was sometimes done), or meant that Menoetius's punishment was because of his participation in the Titanomachy is unclear, and no other early source mentions this event, however Apollodorus says that it was.[85] Hesiod does not mention Prometheus in connection with the Titanomachy, but Prometheus does remain free, in the Theogony, for his deception of Zeus at Mecone and his subsequent theft of fire, for which transgressions Prometheus was famously punished by Zeus by being chained to a rock where an eagle came to eat his "immortal liver" every day, which then grew back every night.[86] However Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound (as mentioned above) does have Prometheus say that he was an ally of Zeus during the Titanomachy.[87]

Apollo piercing with his arrows Tityos, who has tried to rape his mother Leto (c. 450–440 BC)

The female Titans, to the extent that they are mentioned at all, appear also to have been allowed to remain free.[88] Three of these, according to the Theogony, become wives of Zeus: Themis, Mnemosyne, and Leto, the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe.[89] Themis gives birth to the three Horae (Hours), and the three Moirai (Fates), and Mnemosyne gives birth to the nine Muses. Leto, who gives birth to the Olympians Apollo and Artemis, takes an active part on the side of the Trojans in the Iliad, and is also involved in the story of the giant Tityos.[90] Tethys, presumably along with her husband Oceanus, took no part in the war, and, as mentioned above, provided safe refuge for Hera during the war. Rhea remains free and active after the war:[91] appearing at Leto's delivery of Apollo,[92] as Zeus' messenger to Demeter announcing the settlement concerning Persephone,[93] bringing Pelops back to life.[94]

Possible release[edit]

While in Hesiod's Theogony, and Homer's Iliad, Cronus and the other Titans are confined to Tartarus—apparently forever[95]—another tradition, as indicated by later sources, seems to have had Cronus, or other of the Titans, being eventually set free.[96] Pindar, in one of his poems (462 BC), says that, although Atlas still "strains against the weight of the sky ... Zeus freed the Titans",[97] and in another poem (476 BC), Pindar has Cronus, in fact, ruling in the Isles of the Blessed, a land where the Greek heroes reside in the afterlife:[98]

Those who have persevered three times, on either side, to keep their souls free from all wrongdoing, follow Zeus' road to the end, to the tower of Cronus, where ocean breezes blow around the island of the blessed, and flowers of gold are blazing, some from splendid trees on land, while water nurtures others. With these wreaths and garlands of flowers they entwine their hands according to the righteous counsels of Rhadamanthys, whom the great father, the husband of Rhea whose throne is above all others, keeps close beside him as his partner.[99]

Prometheus Lyomenos, an undated lost play by Aeschylus (c. 525 – c. 455 BC), had a chorus composed of freed Titans. Possibly even earlier than Pindar and Aeschylus, two papyrus versions of a passage of Hesiods' Works and Days also mention Cronus being released by Zeus, and ruling over the heroes who go to the Isle of the Blessed; but other versions of Hesiod's text do not, and most editors judge these lines of text to be later interpolations.[100]

Near East origins[edit]

Ancient Hittite relief carving from chamber B of Yazılıkaya, a sanctuary at Hattusa,[101] possibly depicting the twelve underworld gods, which the Hittites called the "former gods" (karuilies siunes), and identified with the Babylonian Anunnaki.[102]

It is generally accepted that the Greek succession myth was imported from the Near East, and that along with this imported myth came stories of a group of former ruling gods, who had been defeated and displaced, and who became identified, by the Greeks, as the Titans.[103] Features of Hesiod's account of the Titans can be seen in the stories of the Hurrians, the Hittites, the Babylonians, and other Near Eastern cultures.[104]

The Hurro-Hittite text Song of Kumarbi (also called Kingship in Heaven), written five hundred years before Hesiod,[105] tells of a succession of kings in heaven: Anu (Sky), Kumarbi, and the storm-god Teshub, with many striking parallels to Hesiod's account of the Greek succession myth. Like Cronus, Kumarbi castrates the sky-god Anu, and takes over his kingship. And like Cronus, Kumarbi swallows gods (and a stone?), one of whom is the storm-god Teshub, who like the storm-god Zeus, is apparently victorious against Kumarbi and others in a war of the gods.[106]

Other Hittite texts contain allusions to "former gods" (karuilies siunes), precisely what Hesiod called the Titans, theoi proteroi. Like the Titans, these Hittite karuilies siunes, were twelve (usually) in number and end up confined in the underworld by the storm-god Teshub, imprisoned by gates they cannot open.[107] In Hurrian, the Hittite's karuilies siunes were known as the "gods of down under" (enna durenna) and the Hittites identified these gods with the Anunnaki, the Babylonian gods of the underworld,[108] whose defeat and imprisonment by the storm-god Marduk, in the Babylonian poem Enûma Eliš (late second millennium BC or earlier),[109] parallels the defeat and imprisonment of the Titans.[110] Other collectivities of gods, perhaps associated with the Mesopotamian Anunnaki, include the Dead Gods (Dingiruggû), the Banished Gods (ilāni darsūti), and the Defeated (or Bound) Gods (ilāni kamûti).[111]

Orphic literature[edit]

The sparagmos[edit]

Dionysus in a mosaic from the House of Poseidon, Zeugma Mosaic Museum

In Orphic literature, the Titans play an important role in what is often considered to be the central myth of Orphism, the sparagmos, that is the dismemberment of Dionysus, who in this context is often given the title Zagreus.[112] As pieced together from various ancient sources, the reconstructed story, usually given by modern scholars, goes as follows.[113] Zeus had intercourse with Persephone in the form of a serpent, producing Dionysus. He is taken to Mount Ida where (like the infant Zeus) he is guarded by the dancing Curetes. Zeus intended Dionysus to be his successor as ruler of the cosmos, but a jealous Hera incited the Titans—who apparently unlike in Hesiod and Homer, were not imprisoned in Tartarus—to kill the child. The Titans whiten their faces with gypsum, and distracting the infant Dionysus with various toys, including a mirror, they seized Dionysus and tore (or cut)[114] him to pieces. The pieces were then boiled, roasted and partially eaten, by the Titans. But Athena managed to save Dionysus' heart, by which Zeus was able to contrive his rebirth from Semele.

The anthropogony[edit]

Commonly presented as a part of the myth of the dismembered Dionysus Zagreus, is an Orphic anthropogony, that is an Orphic account of the origin of human beings. According to this widely held view, as punishment for their crime, Zeus struck the Titans with his thunderbolt, and from the remains of the destroyed Titans humankind was born, which resulted in a human inheritance of ancestral guilt, for this original sin of the Titans, and by some accounts "formed the basis for an Orphic doctrine of the divinity of man."[115] However, when and to what extent there existed any Orphic tradition which included these elements is the subject of open debate.[116]

The 2nd century AD biographer and essayist Plutarch makes a connection between the sparagmos and the punishment of the Titans, but makes no mention of the anthropogony, or Orpheus, or Orphism. In his essay On the Eating of Flesh, Plutarch writes of "stories told about the sufferings and dismemberment of Dionysus and the outrageous assaults of the Titans upon him, and their punishment and blasting by thunderbolt after they had tasted his blood".[117] While, according to the early 4th century AD Christian apologist Arnobius, and the 5th century AD Greek epic poet Nonnus, it is as punishment for their murder of Dionysus that the Titans end up imprisoned by Zeus in Tartarus.[118]

The only ancient source to explicitly connect the sparagmos and the anthropogony is the 6th century AD Neoplatonist Olympiodorus, who writes that, according to Orpheus, after the Titans had dismembered and eaten Dionysus, "Zeus, angered by the deed, blasts them with his thunderbolts, and from the sublimate of the vapors that rise from them comes the matter from which men are created." Olympiodorus goes on to conclude that, because the Titans had eaten his flesh, we their descendants, are a part of Dionysus.[119]

Modern interpretations[edit]

Some 19th- and 20th-century scholars, including Jane Ellen Harrison, have argued that an initiatory or shamanic ritual underlies the myth of the dismemberment and cannibalism of Dionysus by the Titans.[120] Martin Litchfield West also asserts this in relation to shamanistic initiatory rites of early Greek religious practices.[121]


The etymology of Τiτᾶνες (Titanes) is uncertain.[122] Hesiod in the Theogony gives a double etymology, deriving it from titaino [to strain] and tisis [vengeance], saying that Uranus gave them the name Titans: "in reproach, for he said that they strained and did presumptuously a fearful deed, and that vengeance for it would come afterwards".[123] But modern scholars doubt Hesiod's etymology.[124]

Jane Ellen Harrison asserts that the word "Titan" comes from the Greek τίτανος, signifying white "earth, clay, or gypsum," and that the Titans were "white clay men", or men covered by white clay or gypsum dust in their rituals.[125]

In astronomy[edit]

The planet Saturn is named for the Roman equivalent of the Titan Cronus. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is named after the Titans generally, and the other moons of Saturn are named after individual Titans, specifically Tethys, Phoebe, Rhea, Hyperion, and Iapetus. Astronomer William Henry Pickering claimed to have discovered another moon of Saturn which he named Themis, but this discovery was never confirmed, and the name Themis was given to an asteroid, 24 Themis. Asteroid 57 Mnemosyne was also named for the Titan.

A proto-planet Theia is hypothesized to have been involved in a collision in the early solar system, forming the Earth's moon.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hansen, p. 302; Grimal, p. 457 s.v. Titans; Tripp, p. 579 s.v. Titans; Rose, p. 1079 s.v. Titan; Smith, s.v. Titan 1..
  2. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 133–138.
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 337–370.
  4. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 404–409.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 375–377.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 371–374.
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 507–511.
  8. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 453–458.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 901–906, although at Theogony 217 the Moirai are said to be the daughters of Nyx (Night).
  10. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 915–920.
  11. ^ Parada, p. 179 s.v. TITANS; Smith, s.v. Titan 2.; Rose, p. 143 s.v. Atlas, p. 597 s.v. Leto, p. 883 s.v. Prometheus; Tripp, p. 120 s.v. Atlas, p. 266 s.v. Helius, p. 499 s.v. Prometheus.
  12. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132–138, 337–411, 453–520, 901–906, 915–920; Caldwell, pp. 8–11, tables 11–14.
  13. ^ One of the Oceanid daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, at Hesiod, Theogony 351. However, according to Apollodorus, 1.2.3, a different Oceanid, Asia was the mother, by Iapetus, of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.
  14. ^ Although usually, as here, the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (4), 99–100, Selene is instead made the daughter of Pallas the son of Megamedes.
  15. ^ According to Plato, Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Although, at Hesiod, Theogony 217, the Moirai are said to be the daughters of Nyx (Night).
  18. ^ Fowler 2013, pp. 8, 11; Hard, pp. 36–37, p. 40; West 1997, p. 147; Gantz, p. 11; Burkert 1995, pp. 91–92; West 1983, pp. 119–120. According to Epimenides (see Fowler 2013, pp. 7–8), the first two beings, Night and Aer, produced Tartarus, who in turn produced two Titans (possibly Oceanus and Tethys) from whom came the world egg.
  19. ^ Homer, Iliad 14.201, 302 [= 201], 245. According to West 1997, p. 147, these lines suggests a myth in which Oceanus and Tethys are the "first parents of the whole race of gods." And, although Gantz, p. 11, points out that, "mother" may simply refer to the fact that Tethys was Hera's foster mother for a time, as Hera tells us in the lines immediately following, while the reference to Oceanus as "the genesis of gods" might be a "formulaic epithet" referring to the innumerable rivers and springs who were the sons of Oceanus (compare with Iliad 21.195–197), Hypnos' description of Oceanus as "genesis for all" is hard to understand as meaning other than that, for Homer, Oceanus was the father of the Titans.
  20. ^ Gantz, pp. 11–12, 743; West 1983, pp. 117–118; Fowler 2013, p. 11; Plato, Timaeus 40d–e.
  21. ^ West 1983, pp. 118–120; Fowler 2013, p. 11; Plato, Cratylus 402b [= Orphic fr. 15 Kern].
  22. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.3, 1.3.1. Dione is also the mother of Aphrodite by Zeus in the Iliad, 5.370, 3.374; but in the Theogony, 191–200, Aphrodite was born from the foam which formed around Uranus' severed genitals when Cronus threw them into the sea.
  23. ^ Gantz, p. 743.
  24. ^ Bremmer, p. 5, calls Hyginus' genealogy "a strange hodgepodge of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and early genealogies".
  25. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Theogony 3.
  26. ^ Pausanias, 8.37.5.
  27. ^ Hansen, p. 302: "As a group the Titans are the older gods, the former gods, in contrast to the Oympians, who are the younger and present gods".
  28. ^ West 2007, p. 162; Hard, p. 35; West 1997, pp. 111, 298; Hesiod, Theogony 424, 486. As noted by Woodard, p. 154 n. 44, Theogony 486: Οὐρανίδῃ μέγ’ ἄνακτι, θεῶν προτέρων βασιλῆι, which some interpret as meaning Cronus "former king of the gods" (e.g. Evelyn-White), others interpret as meaning Cronus "king of the former gods" (e.g. Most, pp. 40, 41; Caldwell, p. 56; West 1988, p. 17), for an argument against "former king" see West 1966, p. 301 on line 486 θεῶν προτέρων.
  29. ^ Hard, p. 35: "The essential point is that the Titans [are] the former ruling gods who were banished from the upper world when the present devine order was established."; West 1983, p. 164: "The Titans are by definition the banished gods, the gods who have gone out of the world"; West 1966, p. 200 on line 133.
  30. ^ Gantz, pp. 45–46; West 1966, p. 200 on line 133; Hesiod, Theogony 729 ff., 807–814; Homer, Iliad 8.478–481, 14.274, 14.278–279; 15.225; Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 221.
  31. ^ Woodard, pp. 96–97; West 1966, p. 201.
  32. ^ Woodard, p. 97; Hesiod, Theogony 697.
  33. ^ Gantz, p. 46; Homeric Hymn to Apollo (3) 334–339.
  34. ^ Athanassakis and Wolkow, p. 140; Burkert 1985, p. 200, which gives the Titans as an example of "chthonic gods"; Homer, Iliad 14.270–279.
  35. ^ Woodard, p. 92; Hard, pp. 34–35; Burkert 1995, p. 94; Caldwell, p. 36 on lines 133-137; West 1966, p. 200.
  36. ^ West 1966 p. 36, which, concerning Hesiod's list of names, says: "Its very heterogeneity betrays its lack of traditional foundation. Rhea, Zeus' mother, must be married to Kronos, Zeus' father. Hyperion, as father of Helios, must be put back to that generation; so must ancient and venerable personages as Oceanus and Tethys, Themis and Mnemosyne. By the addition of four more colourless names (Koios, Kreios, Theia, and Phoibe), the list is made up to a complement of six males and six females";cf. West 1966, p. 200 on line 133.
  37. ^ Hard, p. 34.
  38. ^ Hard, p. 35; West 1966 pp. 200–201 on line 133.
  39. ^ Caldwell, p. 36 on lines 133-137.
  40. ^ West 1966 pp. 36, 157–158 on line 18.
  41. ^ Hard, pp. 65–69; West 1966, pp. 18–19.
  42. ^ For a detailed account of Titanomachy and Zeus' rise to power see Gantz, pp. 44–56.
  43. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132–153.
  44. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 154–155. Exactly which of these eighteen children Hesiod meant that Uranus hated is not entirely clear, all eighteen, or perhaps just the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers. Hard, p. 67; West 1988, p. 7, and Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160, make it all eighteen; while Gantz, p. 10, says "likely all eighteen"; and Most, p. 15 n. 8, says "apparently only the ... Cyclopes and Hundred-Handers are meant" and not the twelve Titans. See also West 1966, p. 206 on lines 139–53, p. 213 line 154 γὰρ. Why Uranus hated his children is also not clear. Gantz, p. 10 says: "The reason for [Uranus'] hatred may be [his children's] horrible appearance, though Hesiod does not quite say this"; while Hard, p. 67 says: "Although Hesiod is vague about the cause of his hatred, it would seem that he took a dislike to them because they were terrible to behold". However, West 1966, p. 213 on line 155, says that Uranus hated his children because of their "fearsome nature".
  45. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 156–158. The hiding place inside Gaia is presumably her womb, see West 1966, p. 214 on line 158; Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160; Gantz, p. 10. This place seems also to be the same place as Tartarus, see West 1966, p. 338 on line 618, and Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160.
  46. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 159–172.
  47. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 173–182; according to Gantz, p. 10, Cronus waited in ambush, and reached out to castrate Uranus, from "inside [Gaia's] body, we will understand, if he too is a prisoner".
  48. ^ Hard, p. 67; West 1966, p. 19. As Hard notes, in the Theogony, although the Titans were freed as a result of Uranus' castration, apparently the Cyclopes and Hundred-Handers remain imprisoned (see below), see also West 1966, p. 214 on line 158.
  49. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 453–467.
  50. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 468–484. Mount Aigaion is otherwise unknown, and Lyctus is nowhere else associated with Zeus' birth, later tradition located the cave on Mount Ida, or sometimes Mount Dikte, see Hard, pp. 74–75; West 1966, pp. 297–298 on line 477, p. 300 on line 484.
  51. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 485–491.
  52. ^ Gantz, p. 44; Hesiod, Theogony 492–500.
  53. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 501–506; Hard, pp. 68–69; West 1966, p. 206 on lines 139–153, pp. 303–305 on lines 501–506. According to Apollodorus, 1.1.4-5, after the overthrow of Uranus, the Cyclopes (as well as the Hundred-Handers) were rescued from Tartarus by the Titans, but reimprisoned by Cronus.
  54. ^ Gantz, p. 45; West 1966, p. 340 on line 632; Hesiod, Theogony 630–634. As noted by West, locating the Titan's on Othrys was "presumably ... simply because it was the principal mountain on the opposite side of the [Thessalian] plain: There is no evidence that it was really a seat of gods as Olympus was. Elsewhere it is said that the Titans formerly occupied Olympus itself". For Titans on Olympus, see Hesiod, Works and Days 110–111; Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 148; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.503–508, 2.1232–1233.
  55. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 624–721. This is the sequence of events understood to be implied in the Theogony by, for example, Hard, p. 68; Caldwell, p. 65 on line 636; and West 1966, p. 19. However according to Gantz, p. 45, "Hesiod's account does not quite say whether the Hundred-Handers were freed before the conflict or only in the tenth year. ... Eventually, if not at the beginning, the Hundred-Handers are fighting".
  56. ^ This is the usual interpretation of Theogony 734–735 (e.g. Hard, p. 68; Hansen, pp. 25, 159, adding the caveat "presumably"; Gantz, p. 45). However according to West 1966, p. 363 on lines 734–5: "It is usually assumed that the Hundred-Handers are acting as prison guards (so Tz. Th. 277 τοὺς Ἑκατόγχειρας αὺτοῖς φύλακας ἐπιστήσας). The poet does not say this—πιστοὶ φύλακες Διὸς probably refers to their help in battle, cf. 815 κλειτοὶ ἐπίκουροι". Compare with Theogony 817–819.
  57. ^ Gantz, pp. 1, 11, 45.
  58. ^ Hard, p. 36; Homer, Iliad 14.278–279. Compare with Iliad 14.274: "the gods that are below with Cronus", and repeated at Iliad 15.225.
  59. ^ Homer, Iliad 8.478–481.
  60. ^ Homer, Iliad 14.203–204.
  61. ^ Gantz, pp. 45–46.
  62. ^ Homeric Hymn to Apollo (3), 334–339.
  63. ^ Aeschylus(?), Prometheus Bound 201–223.
  64. ^ Hard, pp. 68–69; Gantz, pp. 2, 45; West 1983, p. 123; Apollodorus, 1.1.1–1.2.1. As for Apollodorus' sources, Hard, p. 68, says that Apollodorus' version "perhaps derived from the lost Titanomachia or from the Orphic literature"; see also Gantz, p. 2; for a detailed discussion of Apollodorus' sources for his account of the early history of the gods, see West 1983, pp. 121–126.
  65. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.3.
  66. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.1–1.1.2.
  67. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.4.
  68. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.5. The release and reimprisonment of the Hundred-Handers and Cyclopes, was perhaps a way to solve the problem in Hesiod's account of why the castration of Uranus, which released the Titans, did not also apparently release the six brothers, see Fowler 2013, p. 26; West 1966, p. 206 on lines on lines 139–53. In any case, as West 1983, pp. 130–131, points out, while the release is "logical, since it was indignation at their imprinsonment that led Ge to incite the Titans to overthrow Uranos," their reimprisonment is needed to allow for their eventual release by Zeus to help him overthrow the Titans.
  69. ^ Apollodorus, 1.1.5–1.2.1.
  70. ^ Apollodorus, 1.2.1.
  71. ^ Gantz, p. 45; West 1966, p. 308 on line 509; Hyginus, Fabulae 150. According to Gantz: "Likely enough Hyginus has confused stories of Hera's summoning of the Gigantes to her aid (as in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo) with the overthrow of the Titans."
  72. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 729–734, translation by Glenn W. Most.
  73. ^ Gantz, pp. 45–46.
  74. ^ Homer, Iliad 8.478–481.
  75. ^ Fowler 2013, p. 11; Hard, p. 37; Gantz, pp. 28, 46; West 1983, p. 119.
  76. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 337–398. The translations of the names used here follow Caldwell, p. 8.
  77. ^ Homer, Iliad 14.200–204.
  78. ^ Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 286–289.
  79. ^ Gantz, pp. 30–31.
  80. ^ Gantz, p. 46; Hard, p. 37.
  81. ^ Gantz, pp. 46, 154.
  82. ^ Gantz, p. 46.
  83. ^ Gantz, p. 45; West 1966, p. 308 on line 509; Hyginus, Fabulae 150.
  84. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 514–516.
  85. ^ Gantz, pp. 40, 154; West 1966, p. 308 on line 510; Apollodorus, 1.2.3.
  86. ^ Gantz, pp. 40, 154–166; Hesiod, Theogony 521–534.
  87. ^ Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 201–223.
  88. ^ Gantz, p. 46.
  89. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 901–906, 915–920.
  90. ^ Gantz, pp. 38–39; Homer, Iliad 445–448, 20.72, 21.497–501, 21.502–504, Odyssey 576–581.
  91. ^ Gantz, p. 44.
  92. ^ Homeric Hymn to Apollo (3) 93.
  93. ^ Homeric Hymn to Demeter (2) 441–444.
  94. ^ Bacchylides, fr. 42 Campbell, pp. 294, 295.
  95. ^ Gantz, p. 46; Burkert 1985, p. 221; West 1966, p. 358.
  96. ^ Gantz, pp. 46–48.
  97. ^ Pindar, Pythian 4.289–291.
  98. ^ Gantz, p. 47; West 1978, p. 195 on line 173a.
  99. ^ Pindar, Olympian 2.69–77.
  100. ^ Gantz, pp. 46–47; West 1988, p. 76, note to line 173; West 1978, pp. 194–196, on lines 173a–e.
  101. ^ Beckman, pp. 155–156, 162 fig. 7.7.
  102. ^ Rutherford, pp. 51–52; West 2007, p. 162; West 1997, p. 299; Archi, pp. 114–115.
  103. ^ Woodard, p. 92; Hard, pp. 34–35; Burkert 1995, p. 94; Caldwell, p. 36 on lines 133-137; West 1966, p. 200. Although the Titan's mythology seems certainly to have been imported, whether the Titans were originally a group of gods native to Mycenean Greece, upon whom this borrowed mythology was simply overlaid is unknown. According to West 1966, p. 200: "it is probable that the Titans were taken over from the Orient as part of the Succession Myth, or else that they were gods native to Mycenean Greece but similar enough to the ‘older gods’ of the Near East to be identified with them"; while according to Hard, p. 35: "There may have been an early group of native gods of that name who were identified with the former gods of the imported myth; or else the name Titan was simply a title that was applied by the Greeks to gods of eastern origin. There is no way of telling which alternative is true, and it makes no practical difference in any case, since we know nothing whatever of the original nature of the Titans if they had once enjoyed a separate existence in Greece.".
  104. ^ For detailed discussions of the parallels of the Greek succession myth in Near East mythology, see Woodard, pp. 92–103; West 1997, pp. 276–333; West 1966, pp. 19–31.
  105. ^ West 1997, p. 278; West 1966, p. 20.
  106. ^ Woodard, pp. 92–98; West 1997, pp. 278–280; West 1966, pp. 20–21; Burkert 1985, p. 127.
  107. ^ West 2007, p. 162; West 1997, p. 298; Archi, p. 114.
  108. ^ Rutherford, pp. 51–52; West 2007, p. 162; West 1997, p. 299; Archi, pp. 114–115.
  109. ^ Woodard, p. 99; West 1983, p. 102.
  110. ^ West 1997, p. 139; West 1966, p. 200.
  111. ^ West 1997, p. 299; Burkert 1995, p. 94, with p. 203 n. 24.
  112. ^ Nilsson, p. 202 calls it "the cardinal myth of Orphism"; Guthrie, p. 107, describes the myth as "the central point of Orphic story", Linforth, p. 307 says it is "commonly regarded as essentially and peculiarly Orphic and the very core of the Orphic religion", and Parker 2002, p. 495, writes that "it has been seen as the Orphic 'arch-myth'.
  113. ^ West 1983, pp. 73–74, provides a detailed reconstruction with numerous cites to ancient sources, with a summary on p. 140. For other summaries see Morford, p. 311; Hard, p. 35; March, s.v. Zagreus, p. 788; Grimal, s.v. Zagreus, p. 456; Burkert 1985, pp. 297–298; Guthrie, p. 82; also see Ogden, p. 80. For a detailed examination of many of the ancient sources pertaining to this myth see Linforth, pp. 307–364. The most extensive account in ancient sources is found in Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5.562–70, 6.155 ff., other principle sources include Diodorus Siculus, 3.62.6–8 (= Orphic fr. 301 Kern), 3.64.1–2, 4.4.1–2, 5.75.4 (= Orphic fr. 303 Kern); Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.110–114; Athenagoras of Athens, Legatio 20 Pratten (= Orphic fr. 58 Kern); Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 2.15 pp. 36–39 Butterworth (= Orphic frs. 34, 35 Kern); Hyginus, Fabulae 155, 167; Suda s.v. Ζαγρεύς. See also Pausanias, 7.18.4, 8.37.5.
  114. ^ West 1983, p. 160 remarks that while "many sources speak of Dionysus' being 'rent apart' ... those who use more precise language say that he was cut up with a knife".
  115. ^ Linforth, pp. 307–308; Spineto, p. 34. For presentations of the myth which include the anthropogony, see Dodds, pp. 155–156; West 1983, pp. 74–75, 140, 164–166; Guthrie, p. 83; Burkert 1985, pp. 297–298; March, s.v. Zagreus, p. 788; Parker 2002, pp. 495–496; Morford, p. 313.
  116. ^ See Spineto pp. 37–39; Edmonds 1999 Archived 2011-04-14 at the Wayback Machine, 2008, 2013 chapter 9; Bernabé 2002, 2003; Parker 2014.
  117. ^ Plutarch, On the Eating of Flesh 1.996 C; Linforth, pp. 334 ff. Edmonds 1999, pp. 44–47 Archived 2011-04-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  118. ^ Arnobius, Adversus Gentes 5.19 (p. 242) (= Orphic fr. 34 Kern); Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6.206–210.
  119. ^ Edmonds 1999, p. 40 Archived 2011-04-14 at the Wayback Machine; Olympiodorus, In Plato Phaedon 1.3 (= Orphic fr. 220 Kern); Spineto p. 34; Burkert 1985, p. 463 n. 15; West 1983, pp. 164–165; Linforth, pp. 326 ff..
  120. ^ Harrison, p. 490.
  121. ^ West 1983.
  122. ^ Woodard, p. 97; Hard, p. 35; West 1966, p. 200; Rose, p. 1079 s.v. Titan.
  123. ^ Caldwell, p. 40 on lines 207-210; Hesiod, Theogony 207–210. For a discussion see West 1966, p. 225–226 on line 209 τιταίνοντας.
  124. ^ Rose, p. 1079 s.v. Titan, calls Hesiod's derivation "fanciful", while Hard, p. 35, describes it as "obviously factitious", adding that "there is some ancient evidence to suggest that it may have meant 'princes' or the like"; while West p. 225 on line 209 τιταίνοντας, says that "it is not clear how or why the Titans 'strained'".
  125. ^ Harrison, pp. 491 ff.


External links[edit]