Whenever I come across the word Titan, I always imagine something larger than life. We see the word Titan all around us. It’s in the names of books (like Tools of the Titans) or Movies (like Wrath of the Titans). Or it may be the name of a popular product or brand. Like in India we have a watch company called Titan.
But we still don’t know much about the Titans. They are not as popular as the Olympian Gods at least. It certainly doesn’t feel fair. Titans were much more powerful than the Olympian Gods. In fact, the Titans were the reason the Olympians came into existence in the first place.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start de-mystifying the Titans one step at a time.
We already saw the birth of the Titans in the origin stories of Greek Mythology. You can read the entire article here or let me summarize super quickly.
At first, there was only Chaos and from there came Gaea or mother earth. She created Uranus or the sky. Gaea and Uranus got together and had a bunch of children. Among others, they gave birth to 12 Titans.
Eventually, the Titans overthrew Uranus and the youngest Titan – Cronus became the king.
Life under the Titans
Titans were super-powerful beings. But they were really great rulers. Their rule was also known as the Golden Period. Vices did not exist yet and everyone lived peacefully. Maybe that’s why we still hold Titans in such high regards.
The 12 Titans eventually paired up and had more Titan babies. Their family tree gets super confusing super fast, especially because marrying their siblings or children of their siblings is super common. To keep things simple, I will stick to only the most important Titans (and Titanesses)
Sons of Uranus and Gaea –
He was the youngest of the offspring’s of Gaea and Uranus and he was the one who defeated his father and became the ruler of the universe. He married Rhea and had six offspring’s who later became Olympian gods. Cronus was later defeated by his own son Zeus (much in the same way as he defeated his own father). But apart from all that, he was a pretty great king. Life was peaceful and harmonious under him.
Cronus was the god of time and the word chronology comes from the Greek root Cronus. Cronus represents the destructive and decaying nature of the time. Everything sees the effects of time. No wonder he was the one who ended the time of Uranus and gave birth to the Olympian Gods and started their time.
Oceanus was the god of oceans (naturally named after him) as well as all the rivers and other water bodies. He married Tethys and gave birth to several river gods and nymphs.
Oceanus is the oldest child of Uranus and Gaea. He is considered one of the strongest Titans. Considering the fact that he ruled all the oceans, he is arguably the strongest of them all.
When Titans lost the war and the Olympian Gods came into power, Poseidon became the new ruler of the oceans. Even then some stories say that Poseidon became the ruler of the Mediterranean Sea and Oceanus was pushed back to live and rule other deeper oceans.
Coeus is the god of Intelligence as well as considered the axis of heaven around which the constellations revolve. This is just fancier way to say that the Greeks considered him the North Pole. His name Coeus is also the root for many words like query or questioning. Query and questioning is the first step towards intelligence so that too fits.
Coeus doesn’t appear in many stories in Greek Mythology. However, he has a very important place in the family tree. He married Phoebe and gave birth to Leto and Asteria. Now Phoebe is the goddess of rational intelligence. Together they make a very interesting and intelligent couple.
Crius is the god of constellations. He is mostly depicted as a ‘Ram’ and his constellation is called Aries.
There are not many stories about Crius. However, we know that he married Eurybia and had three children – Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses.
Astraeus is the god of stars and astrology like his father whereas Pallas – god of war-craft and Perses – god of destruction chose different paths for themselves.
Hyperion is the god of light (or sunlight). He controlled the movement of sun, moon and dawn. When he married Theia and had three children with her, he assigned one child to preside over each cycle. Thus his son Helios presided over the sun, daughter Selene presided over the moon and daughter Eos got charge of dawn.
Iapetus is known as the god of mortality although some stories depict him as the god of craftsmanship. He married Clymene and had four children – Atlas, Prometheus, Epimethius, and Menoetius.
It is said that Iapetus and his children created mankind and all other mortal creatures.
Daughters of Uranus and Gaea –
Theia was the goddess of shining light and sight. She married Hyperion who is also a god of light. Together they gave birth to Helios, Selene, and Eos.
Theia is mostly connected with powers of ‘foresight’ and ‘prophecy’.
Rhea was the queen of titans after marrying Cronus and the goddess of fertility. She is the mother of the original six Olympians. Rhea saved Zeus by hiding him and handing a stone wrapped in a child’s clothing to Cronus.
Later she even helped Zeus fight against Cronus and other titans.
Themis was the goddess of divine law and order. She established the very first rules and regulations as per the Greek Mythology. Her rules became the first set of rules and laws for mortal humans as well.
She was one of the earliest brides of Zeus and gave birth to ‘Hours’ and ‘Fate’ who represent the natural law and order.
Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory and remembrance. She also invented speech and writing which seems logical since speech and writing are essential tools for memory and remembrance.
She was another lover of Zeus and had several children with him. It is said that Zeus came to her for nine nights and she gave birth to nine muses.
Phoebe was the goddess of prophetic radiance. Phoebe married Titan Coeus and had two daughters – Leto and Asteria.
Both Leto and Asteria have important stories of their own. However, there are not many stories related to Phoebe apart of her being a goddess of prophecies.
Tethys was the goddess of all fresh water on Earth. It was no surprise that she married Oceanus the god of all oceans. Together they gave birth to thousands of river and lake gods and other water nymphs.
Other Important Titans and Titanesses
Metis was one of the children of Tethys and Oceanus. She was the first counsellor of Zeus. She was the one who told Zeus how to make Cronus throw up the rest of his siblings.
Metis helped Zeus and other Olympians against Titans in the war. Later she married Zeus and got pregnant. However, there was a prophecy that Metis will give birth to a son who will be greater than his father.
In a fit of jealousy, Zeus swallowed pregnant Metis. He thought that this way the child would never be born. But as per the stories, Metis gave birth inside Zeus’s body. Then Zeus had a severe headache and his daughter Athena tore open his skull and came out as a fully grown adult.
Zeus being the immortal god recovered rather quickly. But Metis stayed inside him. It is said that Metis became the voice of reason in his head.
Atlas is the God of Endurance which becomes relevant later.
Atlas led the army of Titans against Zeus. When Zeus won he sent all the Titans to Tartarus as a punishment. However, he sent Atlas to the end of the world and made him hold the sky on his back.
There are many statues depicting Atlas with a bent back holding a huge sphere. It is mostly incorrectly depicted as Atlas holding Earth. However, the sphere Atlas is shown holding is in fact celestial sphere.
Atlas is also the one who helped Hercules in one of his labours.
Leto was the goddess of modesty and kindness. She was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus.
Zeus set his sight on Leto’s sister Asteria. However, Asteria did not want to get together with Zeus. To escape him, she jumped in the ocean. Then Zeus turned his sight to Leto. He managed to get her pregnant. But then Hera who was already fed up of her husband’s infidelities turned her hatred towards Leto.
Hera made it impossible for Leto to find refugee anywhere. Wherever Leto went, she was turned away as no one wanted wrath of Hera. Finally, Leto got shelter in Delos where she gave birth to twins – Apollo and Artemis.
While Leto was not accepted by the Olympian Gods, her children became rather important Gods on Mount Olympus.
Prometheus was the god of forethought. He was also the one who created mankind and was rather attached to his creations.
After Prometheus created humans, he stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans. As a result, he was punished rather harshly. Zeus ordered to chain him to a rock where an eagle would eat his liver every day. Every night his body would regenerate and the eagle would come and eat his liver again.
Since Prometheus was immortal, it was rather harsh.
He would have been tormented for an eternity had it not been for Hercules. In one of his tasks, Hercules had to go to Prometheus and ask for directions. In return, Hercules killed the eagle and freed Prometheus. By then enough time had passed for Zeus to not care anymore.
Thus as humans, we owe of the gift of fire to Prometheus.