Titanomachy

Summary

In Greek mythology, the Titanomachy (in ancient Greek Τιτανομαχία Titanomakhía) is the battle fought by the Olympians against the Titans, colloquially known as the Battle of the Titans or the Titanic War.

The main source of this mythological chapter is provided by Hesiod”s Theogony. There it is said that the Titans – Oceanus, Keo, Chrius, Hyperion, Japetus, Tea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Thetis and Kronos – were the twelve youngest sons of Uranus and Gaea. These primordials had earlier begotten the Cyclopes (“one-eyed monsters”) and the Hecatonchires (“one hundred hands”). After coming to manhood Zeus forced Kronos to vomit out his brothers, freed the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires, and allied with them to defeat their father. Cronus and his brothers were defeated by Zeus and his allies in a terrible war, the Titanomachy, in which all the gods took part. The Titans were chained and thrown into Tartarus, located in the bowels of the earth; but one of the sons of Japetus, Atlas or Atlantis, was condemned to carry the vault of heaven on his shoulders for all eternity, for having supported Cronus. Ten years lasted the contest between the ancient gods and the more upstart ones; two races of deities long before the existence of mankind. The Titans took as their headquarters Mount Otris, while the Olympians were stationed on Mount Olympus. This mountain was to become the home of their new rulers.

The Titanomachy is already confused by some late authors, such as Ovid, with another similar theomachy, the Gigantomachy, and others even include them in the same episode.

The Greeks of the classical age knew several poems about the Titanomachy apart from the Theogony. A lost epic poem entitled Titanomachy and attributed to the blind Thracian aedo Thamiris, himself a legendary character, was mentioned in passing in the essay On Music once attributed to Plutarch. At least in the Titanomachy poem, of which only paltry fragments have survived, we are told of characters in contexts unknown in the work, such as the horses of Helios and the Hours, or the birth of Chiron from the union of Cronus and Phyllira.

The Titans also played a prominent role in the poems attributed to Orpheus. Although only fragments of the Orphic tales survive, they reveal interesting differences with the Hesiodic tradition.

These Greek myths of the Titanomachy fall into a class of similar myths present in Europe and the Near East, where a generation or group of gods confronts the dominant ones. Sometimes these are supplanted. Other times the rebels lose and are either totally removed from power or incorporated into the pantheon. Other examples would be the wars of the Aesir with the Vanir and the Jotunos in Scandinavian mythology, the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, the Hittite narrative of the “Kingdom of Heaven” and the dark generational conflict of the Ugaritic fragments.

The stage for this important battle was set after the youngest titan, Kronos, overthrew his own father, Uranus (god of Heaven and first ruler of the universe), with the help of his mother, Gaea (Earth). Cronus then castrated his father, seized his throne and freed his brother Titans, who had been imprisoned in Tartarus under the tyrannical and selfish reign of Uranus.

However, when his position was usurped, Uranus prophesied that Cronus” own children would rebel against his rule just as he and his brothers had done. Fearing that his future children would rebel against him, Cronus became the terrible king that his father Uranus had been, and swallowed his children whole as they were born to his wife and sister Rhea. However, according to an Arcadian legend collected by the Greek geographer Pausanias in his Description of Greece, Rhea managed to hide her son Zeus, and instead of Zeus she gave him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Others allege that Poseidon was not devoured or vomited but that Rhea gave Cronus a foal instead of him and hid him among the herds of horses.The Cretans, refer that Zeus is born every year in the same cave with a flashing fire and a spurt of blood, and that every year he dies and is buried.

Rhea took Zeus to a cave on the island of Crete, where he was raised by the Curetes and the nymphs Adrastea and Ida. When Zeus grew older, Metis gave Cronus an emetic potion, which caused him to vomit up the children he had swallowed. Zeus then led them in rebellion against the Titans.

Before the war began, Zeus gathered his allies and made a sacrifice on the altar that the Cyclops had built for him, to commemorate their alliance. Zeus dedicated his offerings to Uranus, Gaea and Helius.This altar was placed among the stars as the constellation Ara, the altar.As a sign of good fortune an eagle arose in the heavens, which Zeus also catasterized among the stars.

Then the Olympians, led by Zeus, declared war on the previous generation of deities, the Titans. On the Olympian side were the other Cronids: Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Hades and Poseidon, who had been devoured by their father and now sought revenge.The titanid Hecate also sided with Zeus, and so the Cronid retained her dignity as a goddess with power in the heavens, the sea and the earth. On the advice of Oceanus, Styx led her four sons, Crato, Zealus, Bia, and Nike, to Zeus” side; for being the first to come to her call, Zeus made the waters of Styx the source of her irrevocable oath, which Iris was charged with collecting in a cratera.Moreover the hundred-armed Hecatonchires and the one-eyed Cyclopes, who had previously been imprisoned by Cronus, aided the Olympians in satisfying their vengeance. Zeus, to free his uncles – at least the Cyclops – killed the jailer of Tartarus, Campe.These Uranids helped by making Zeus” famous weapons, the thunderbolts, Poseidon”s trident and Hades” helmet of invisibility. It is even said that Pan also positioned himself on the Olympic side, emitting such shrieks that put the Titans to flight.Also Gaea, the Earth, who supported the side of Zeus – to avenge the imprisonment of the Centimians and Cyclops at the hands of Cronus – sent the huge ophiotaur, that is, an immense bull with a serpent”s tail, which lashed out against the Titans. Others say that the ophiotaur supported the Titans and that Estige, alerted by the Moirae, had to imprison it, while Briareus destroyed it with an adamantine axe. Gaea had also prophesied that Zeus would achieve victory after ten years of war.Late authors also include other Olympian gods sons of Zeus during the battle, at least Athena, Ares, Dionysus, Apollo and Artemis, but this seems a confusion with the gigantomachy.At least of Ares it is said that he possessed a “spear destroyer of Titans”, although this could be a simple war metaphor.

The Titans, headed by Cronus, included at least Ceus, Crio, Hyperion, and Japetus, as well as the latter”s sons, Atlas and Menetius; all of them explicitly participated in the Theogony. Of Pallante, Perses and Astreo, sons of Crio, it can be implicitly interpreted that they were also included, but no source contemplates it. Another ally of the Titans was Egeon, son of Pontus and Gaea, who resided in the seas.Azeus, a son of Gaea, also fought in favor of the Titans; so did Equidnades, who was even used by Cronus to receive the impact of Zeus” thunderbolt. The Hecatonchires, to thank for their new freedom, helped the Olympians by throwing huge stones at the Titans, one hundred at a time, which ended up burying their enemies, thus giving the definitive victory to Zeus and his. Two sister goddesses remained as heralds on both sides, Iris being the messenger of the Olympian side while Arce was the messenger of the Titanic side.

Having finally achieved victory after a decade of war, the Olympians divided the spoils among themselves and decided to share the lot of the universe. Here, however, there are two versions. The Homeric version tells us that the three Cronides drew lots: Zeus was given the dominion of the sky, the sea to Poseidon, and the underworld to Hades; but the earth was left as common territory.the Hesiodic version says that after the end of the theomachy and by indication of Gaea, they encouraged Zeus to be the ruler of the immortals, and he distributed each lot to his two brothers.

They then decided to imprison and chain the defeated Titans in Tartarus, the deepest depths of the underworld; it is said that Poseidon had built the bronze walls. Since then the Titans are called chthonic gods. One source specifies that Oceanus did not participate in the titanomachy.As for the six hesiodic titanides, Hesiod says that “they all fought, females and males, the gods Titans and those who were born of Kronos”, but no source gives us more data on the matter. They must not have been punished, because after the titanomachy the author cites, in the catalog of Zeus” wives, at least the titanides Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Mnemosyne and Leto. Metis helped Zeus to overthrow Cronus so we assume that, although she did not participate in the war, she would be aligned in favor of the Olympians. Dione is described as dwelling on Olympus, and no source tells us that Rhea was condemned, but neither is she mentioned as dwelling on Olympus. In fact, no source tells us that the Titanides were condemned in Tartarus, with the sole exception of Arce, and it is also said that during the war the Titans sent the Coribantes from Bactria to guard their sister Rhea.

Other Titans who were not imprisoned in Tartarus were Atlas, Epimetheus and Prometheus; however, Menetius was fulminated by Zeus with a thunderbolt “for his insolence”.Uranus, the sky, had almost collapsed on the earth after the war due to the enormous roar that had caused the devastating conflict under it; an enormous smoke rose, even reaching Chaos itself. Zeus ordered Atlas, as an exemplary punishment, to hold the celestial vault for all eternity on his weary shoulders. For his part, Prometheus had urged his relatives to refrain from fighting against Zeus, since the victory of the Olympians was already predestined. Prometheus was a wise Titan and knew how to foresee his destiny, convincing his brother Epimetheus to follow in his footsteps and not participate in the battle; for this reason both brothers were not punished either.

There are at least two mythical variants on the destiny of Kronos: the oldest tradition, reflected in certain Homeric and Hesiodic formulas, assumes that Kronos dwells in Tartarus surrounded by the rest of the Titans. A later tradition states that Cronus was later freed by the will of Zeus, and that he was left to reign in the islands of the Blessed. This version is attested in an interpolation to Works and Days, and in some verses of Pindar.The Hecatonchires were left standing guard in Tartarus over the prisoners.Also Poseidon, to thank the help given to him by the centimanus Briareus, married him to his daughter Cimopolea.

Sources

  1. Titanomaquia
  2. Titanomachy