"Theogony" (Greek: Θεογονία, "theogonia" = the birth of God(s)) is a poem by Hesiod describing the origins and genealogies of the gods of the ancient Greeks, composed circa 700 BC. The title of the work comes from the Greek words for "god" and "seed".


Hesiod's "Theogony" is a large-scale synthesis of a vast variety of local Greek traditions concerning the gods, organized as a narrative that tells about the origin of the cosmos and about the gods that shaped cosmos.

Further, in the "Kings and Singers" passage (80-103) [Kathryn B. Stoddard, "The Programmatic Message of the "Kings and Singers" Passage: Hesiod, 'Theogony' 80-103"Transactions of the American Philological Association" 133.1 (Spring 2003), pp. 1-16.] Hesiod appropriates to himself the authority usually reserved to sacred kingship. The poet declares that it is he, where we might have expected some king instead, upon whom the Muses have bestowed the two gifts of a scepter and an authoritative voice (Hesiod, "Theogony" 30-3), which are the visible signs of kingship. It is not that this gesture is meant to make Hesiod a king. Rather, the point is that the authority of kingship now belongs to the poetic voice, the voice that is declaiming the "Theogony".

Although it is often used as a sourcebook for Greek mythology, [Herodotus (II.53) cited it simply as an authoritative list of divine names, attributes and functions.] the "Theogony" is both more and less than that. In formal terms it is a hymn invoking Zeus and the Muses: parallel passages between it and the much shorter Homeric "Hymn to the Muses" make it clear that the "Theogony" developed out of a tradition of hymnic preludes with which an ancient Greek rhapsode would begin his performance at poetic competitions. It is necessary to see the "Theogony" not as the definitive source of Greek mythology, but rather as a snapshot of a dynamic tradition that happened to crystallize when Hesiod formulated the myths he knew — and to remember that the traditions have continued evolving since that time.

The written form of the "Theogony" was established in the sixth century. Even some conservative editors have concluded that the Typheous episode (820-80) is an interpolation.

The decipherment of Hittite mythical texts, notably the "Kingship in Heaven" text first presented in 1946, with its castration mytheme, offers in the figure of Kumarbi a Levantine parallel to Hesiod's Uranus-Cronos conflict. [Walter Burkert, "The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Inmfluence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age" (Harvard University Press) 192, offers discussion and bibliography of related questions.]

After the speaker declares that he has received the blessings of the Muses, and thanks them for giving him inspiration, he explains that Chaos arose spontaneously. Chaos gives birth to Eros ["Bulfinch's Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology" by Thomas Bulfinch Publisher: S W Tilton (1894). ASIN: B000JWAT00 pg 19.] and Gaia (Earth), the more orderly and safe foundation that would serve as a home for the gods and mortals, came afterwards. Tartarus (both a place below the earth as well as a deity) and Eros(Desire) also came into existence from nothing. Eros serves an important role in sexual reproduction, before which children had to be produced by means of parthenogenesis. From Chaos came Erebos (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Erebos and Nyx reproduced to make Aither (Brightness) and Hemera (Day). From Gaia came Ouranos (Sky), the Ourea (Mountains), and Pontus (Sea).

Ouranos mated with Gaia to create twelve Titans: Okeanos, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetos, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, and Kronos; three Kyklopes (Cyclops): Brontes, Steropes, and Arges; and three Hecatonchires: Kottos, Briareos, and Gyges.

econd generation

Ouranos was disgusted with his children, the Hecatonchires, so he hid them away somewhere in Gaia. Angered by this, she asked her children the Titans to punish their father. Only Kronos was willing to do so. Kronos castrated his father with a sickle from Gaia. The blood from Ouranos splattered onto the earth producing Erinyes (the Furies), Giants, and Meliai. Kronos takes the severed testicles and throws them into the Sea (Thalassa), around which foams developed and they transformed into the goddess of Love, Aphrodite (which is why in some myths, Aphrodite was daughter of Ouranos and the goddess Thalassa).

Meanwhile, Nyx, though she married Erebos, produced children parthenogenetically: Moros (Doom), Oneiroi (Dreams), Ker and the Keres (Destinies), Eris (Discord), Momos (Blame), Philotes (Love), Geras (Old Age), Thanatos (Death), Moirai (Fates), Nemesis (Retribution), Hesperides (Daughters of Night), Hypnos (Sleep), Oizys (Hardship), and Apate (Deceit).

From Eris, following her mother's footstep, came Ponos (Pain), Hysmine (Battles), the Neikea (Quarrels), the Phonoi (Murders), Lethe (Oblivion), Makhai (Fight), Pseudologos (Lies), Amphilogia (Disputes), Limos (Famine), Androktasia (Manslaughters), Ate (Ruin), Dysnomia (Anarchy and Disobedience), the Algea (Illness), Horkos (Oaths), and Logoi (Stories).

After Ouranos had been castrated, Gaia married Pontos and have a descendent line consisting of sea deities, sea nymphs, and hybrid monsters. One child of Gaia and Pontos is Nereus (Old Man of the Sea), who marries Doris, a daughter of Okeanos and Tethys, and has Nereids, the fifty nymphs of the sea - one of whom is Thetis. Another child of Gaia and Pontos is Thaumas, who marries Electra, a sister of Doris,and has Iris (Rainbow) and two Harpies.

Phorkys and Keto, two siblings, marry each other and have the Graiae, the Gorgons, Echidna, and Ophion. Medusa, one of the Gorgons, and had two children with Poseidon, the winged-horse Pegasus and giant Chrysaor, at the instant of her decapitation by Perseus. Chrysaor marries Callirhoe, another daughter of Okeanos, and has the three-headed Geryon.

Gaia also married with Tartaros and hasTyphoeus, whom Echidna marries and has Orthos, Kerberos, Hydra, and Chimera. From Orthos and either Chimera or Echidna were born the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion.

In the family of the Titans, Okeanos and Tethys marry and has three thousand rivers (including the Nile and Skamandar) and three thousand Okeanid Nymphs (including Electra, Kalypso, and Styx). Theia and Hyperion marry and have Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn). Kreios and Eurybia marry to bear Astraios, Pallas, and Perses. Eos and Astraios would later marry and hadZephyros, Boreas, Notos, Eosphoros, Hesperos, Phosphoros and the Stars (foremost of which Phaenon, Phaethon, Pyroeis, Stilbon, those of the Zodiac and those three acknowledged before). From Pallas and Styx (another Okeanid) came Zelos (Zeal), Nike (Victory), Cratos (Strength), and Bia (Force). Koios and Phoibe marry and have Leto, Asteria (who later marries Perses and has Hekate). Iapetos marries Klymene (an Okeanid Nymph) and had Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.

Third and final generation

Kronos, having taken control of the Cosmos, wanted to ensure that he maintained power. Ouranos and Gaia prophesied to him that one of his children would overthrow him, so when he married Rhea, he made sure to swallow each of the children she birthed: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus (in that order). However, Rhea asked Gaia and Ouranos for help in saving Zeus by sending Rhea to Crete to nurture Zeus and giving Kronos a huge stone to swallow thinking that it was another of Rhea's children. Rhea then sets Zeus on a tree that sat on a ledge (between sky, earth and sea, making him invisible) with the Curetes constantly clanging their swords on their shield to keep Kronos from hearing the infant Zeus's crying.

After Zeus had grown up, he consults Metis, who concocts a potion which forces Kronos to disgorge his siblings and thereafter waged a great war on the Titans for control of the Cosmos. The war lasted ten years, with the Olympian gods, Cyclopes, Prometheus and Epimetheus, the children of Pallas on one side, and the Titans and the Giants on the other (with only Oceanos as a neutral force). Eventually Zeus releases the Hundred-Handed ones to shake the earth, allowing him to gain the upper hand, and casts the fury of his thunderbolts at the Titans, throwing them into Tartaros. Zeus later must battle Typhoeus, a son of Gaia and Tartaros created because Gaia was angry that the Titans were defeated, and is victorious again.

Because Prometheus helped Zeus, he was not sent to Tartaros like the other Titans. However, he later stole fire from the Olympian gods to give to mortals, along with other knowledge, which angered Zeus. Zeus punishes Prometheus by chaining him to a column and invokes a long-winged eagle that would feed on his ever-regenerating liver. Prometheus would not be freed until Heracles, a son of Zeus, comes to free him and encourage him to tell Zeus the prophecy of who would overthrow Zeus.

(A digression: It would later turn out that Thetis, a nymph that Zeus was chasing, would have a son that would be greater than his father. Zeus promptly married her off to Peleus, who ended up fathering Achilleus. At the wedding, Eris, who resented not being invited, rolled a golden apple inscribed "For the Fairest". The apple rolled between the three loveliest goddesses (Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene). The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide who was loveliest, but he was afraid of what either of them might do if they were not chosen. So he gave the responsibility to the Trojan Prince Paris. He chose Aphrodite over Athena and Hera to get the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, and start the Trojan War).

Another trickery Prometheus made was to divide an animal sacrifice, giving meat to humans and bone and skin to the gods. It forms the origin of sacrificing animals to a deity.

Zeus, because of the loss of fire, would later punish the men on earth by making a woman with Hephaistos and Athena, Pandora, who, through her good charms and beauty, would bring about all the miseries of diseases and deaths into the world by opening a box from Zeus, but she closed the box before Elpis (Hope) was released. It would not be until Prometheus came and opened the box to free Elpis (Hope). [There is some debate about the simple and obvious translation of "elpis" as "hope". Some scholars argue that is really should be translated as "expectation" since the root word is from "suppose". And in this context it is argued that what was left in the jar was not Hope as we know it, but the "expectation of ills" so that Man would be unpleasently surprised by ills that befell him instead of expecting them. Confer W.J. Verdenius, "Commentaries on Hesiod", et al. Also written in Tandy and Neale's translation of "Works and Days". p.64, note 37.]

Zeus marries seven wives. The first is the Oceanid Metis, whom he swallowed to avoid getting a son that, as happened with Kronos and Ouranos, would overthrow him, as well as to absorb her wisdom so that she can advise him in the future. He would later "give birth" to Athena from his head, which would anger Hera enough for her to produce her own son parthenogenetically, Typhaon, the part snake,part dragon sea monster. The second wife is Themis, who bears the three Horae (Hours) – Eunomia (Order), Dikē (Justice), Eirene (Peace) and the three Moirae (Fates) – Klotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Alotter), Atropos (Unturned), as well as Tyche. Zeus then married his third wife Eurynome, who bears the three Charites (Graces): Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia. The fourth wife is his sister Demeter, who bears Persephone. Persephone would later marry Hades, and bear Melinoe, Goddess of Ghosts, and Zagreus, God of the Orphic Mysteries, and Macaria, Goddess of the Blessed Afterlife. The fifth wife of Zeus is another aunt, Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine MusesKleio, Euterpe, Thaleia, Melpomene, Terpsikhore, Erato, Polymnia, Urania, and Kalliope. The sixth wife is Leto, who gives birth to Apollo and Artemis. The seventh and final wife is Hera, who gives birth to Hebe, Ares, Enyo, Hephastios,and Eileithyia. Of course, though Zeus no longer marries, he still has affairs with many other women, such as Semele, who would give birth to Dionysus, and Alkmene, the mother of Heracles, who marries Hebe.

Poseidon marries Amphitrite and produces Triton. Ares and Aphrodite would marry to make Phobos (Fear), Deimos (Cowardice), and Harmonia (Harmony), who would later marry Kadmos to sire Ino (who with her son, Melicertes would become a sea deity) Semele (Mother of Dionysos), Agaue (Mother of Actaeon), Polydorus, and Autonoe (who would later be driven in to perpetual Bacchic Frenzy by her nephew, Dionysos). Helios and Perseis birth Kirke (Circe), who with Poseidon would mother Phaunos, God of the Forest, and with Dionysos mother Comos, God of Revelry and Festivity . And with Odysseus, she would later give birth to Agrius. Atlas' daughter Kalypso would give birth to Odysseus' children Telegonos, Teledamus, Latinus, Nausithoos, and Nausinous.


ee also



*Brown, Norman O. Introduction to "Hesiod: Theogony" (New York: Liberal Arts Press) 1953.
*Bulfinch's Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch Publisher: S W Tilton (1894)ASIN: B000JWAT00
* Lamberton, Robert, "Hesiod", New Haven : Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0300040687. Cf. Chapter II, "The Theogony", pp.38-104.
*Tandy, David W., and Neale, Walter C. [translators] , "Works and Days: a translation and commentary for the social sciences", Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. ISBN 0520203836
* Verdenius, Willem Jacob, "A Commentary on Hesiod "Works and Days" vv 1-382" (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985). ISBN 9004074651

External links

* [ Hesiod, "Theogony"] e-text (in English)
* [ Hesiod, Theogony] e-text in Greek (from Perseus)
* [ Hesiod, Theogony] e-text in English (from Perseus)

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  • Theogony — The*og o*ny, n. [L. theogonia, Gr. ?; ? a god + the root of ? to be born. See {Theism}, and {Genus}.] The generation or genealogy of the gods; that branch of heathen theology which deals with the origin and descent of the deities; also, a poem… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • theogony — (n.) 1610s, the account of the birth or genealogy of the gods, from Gk. theogonia generation or birth of the gods, from theos a god (see THEA (Cf. Thea)) + gonia a begetting …   Etymology dictionary

  • theogony — [thē äg′ə nē] n. pl. theogonies [Gr theogonia: see THEO & GONY] the origin or genealogy of the gods, as told in myths theogonic [thē΄ə gän′ik] adj …   English World dictionary

  • theogony — noun The origination of gods or a narrative describing the origin of gods. This Phoenician history includes the cosmogony and theogony of the Phoenicians. In the theogony, Ourianos (Sky) has four children by his wife sister Gē (Earth): Ēlos… …   Wiktionary

  • theogony —   n. doctrine of origin of gods.    ♦ theogonal,    ♦ theogonic, a.    ♦ theogonism, n. belief in a theogony …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • theogony — noun (plural nies) Etymology: Greek theogonia, from the + gonia gony Date: 1612 an account of the origin and descent of the gods • theogonic adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • theogony — theogonic /thee euh gon ik/, adj. theogonist, n. /thee og euh nee/, n., pl. theogonies. 1. the origin of the gods. 2. an account of this; a genealogical account of the gods. [1605 15; < Gk theogonía. See THEO , GONY] * * * …   Universalium

  • theogony — [θɪ ɒgəni] noun (plural theogonies) the genealogy of a group or system of gods. Origin C17: from Gk theogonia, from theos god + gonia begetting …   English new terms dictionary

  • theogony — the·og·o·ny …   English syllables

  • theogony — the•og•o•ny [[t]θiˈɒg ə ni[/t]] n. pl. nies myt an account of the origin of a god, goddess, or divine pantheon • Etymology: 1605–15; < Gk theogonía. See theo , gony the o•gon′ic əˈgɒn ɪk adj. the•og′o•nist, n …   From formal English to slang