Greek mythology, Tityos (also spelled Tityas or Tityus) was a giant chthonicbeing. He was the son of Elara (daughter of King Orchomenus) and her lover Zeus.
Zeus hid Elara from his wife,
Hera, by placing her deep beneath the earth. This was where she gave birth to Tityos, who is also sometimes said to be the son of Gaia, the earth goddess, for this reason. Tityos was a phallic being who grew so vast that he split his mother's womb and had to be carried to term by Gaia herself. Tityos attempted to rape Letoat the behest of Hera and was slain by Apolloand Artemis. As punishment, he was stretched out in Hadesand tortured by two vultures who fed on his liver. This punishment is extremely similar to that of the Titan Prometheus. Jane Ellen Harrisonnoted that, "To the orthodox worshipper of the Olympians he was the vilest of criminals; as such Homer knew him":
:"I saw Tityus too,:"son of the mighty Goddess Earth—sprawling there:"on the ground, spread over nine acres—two vultures:"hunched on either side of him, digging into his liver,:"beaking deep in the blood-sac, and he with his frantic hands:"could never beat them off, for he had once dragged off:"the famous consort of Zeus in all her glory,:"Leto, threading her way toward Pytho's ridge:"over the lovely dancing-rings of Panopeus". (
Robert Fagles' translation)
In the early first century, when the geographer
Strabovisited Panopeus(ix.3.423), he was reminded by the local people that it was the abode of Tityos and recalled the fact that the Phaeacians had carried Rhadamanthysin their boats to visit Tityos, according to Homer. ["Odyssey" vii.372.] There on Euboeaat the time of Strabo they were still showing a "cave called Elarion from Elarawho was mother to Tityos, and a hero-shrine of Tityos, and some kind of honours are mentioned which are paid him." [Quoted in Harrison 1903, p 336.] It is clear that the local hero-cult had been superseded by the cult of the Olympian gods, and the hero demonized. A comparable giant chthonicpre-Olympian of a Titan-like order is Orion.
*Harrison, Jane Ellen, "Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion" (1903), p. 336f.
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