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The 12 Titans of Greek Mythology

By Yona Williams    8/3/09

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Tethys_the_Titaness.jpg
Tethys
Before there was Zeus and Hera overseeing the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, the Greek Titans held the highest position in the Greek mythology food chain. Powerful and legendary, these deities ruled during what is known as the 'Golden Age.' They served as the Elder Gods until younger gods, called the Olympians, overthrew them. This shift in power that took place in the world of Greek mythology replaced the Greek Titans – 12 in all – with the likes of Zeus.

The 12 first-generation Titans were led by the youngest, Kronos (Saturn), who overthrew their father, Uranus ('Sky') at the request of their mother, Gaia ('Earth'). Zeus was able to overthrown the Titans in a clash known as the 'War of the Titans' or the Titanomachy. After their defeat, the Titans were held prisoner in Tartarus – the deepest part of the Underworld. Only a few that did not oppose Zeus were allowed to remain outside of Tartarus.

The 12 Titans that ruled before the Olympians took over were, included the following ancient figures:

Cronus

At one point, Cronus (or Kronus) was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans. Just like he was overthrown by his sons, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, he too overthrew his father so that he could rule throughout the Golden Age of Greek mythology. Some accounts have Cronus imprisoned in Tartarus along with the other Titans, while other recollections show him sent to rule the paradise of the Elysian Fields.

Rhea

The daughter of Uranus and Gaia, Rhea served as the 'mother of gods.' Early traditions have her strongly connected to Gaia and Cybele, the Great Goddess. In later classical Greek texts, she is known as the mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses. While she was their mother, she never permanently lived amongst them.

Themis

Known as the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, Themis was often described as 'of good counsel.' Whenever organized affairs involving the humans (like community assemblies) took place, it was she that was seen to have a hand in the planning. Themis' name translates into 'law of nature.'

Oceanus

The ocean waters that covered the world were personified in Oceanus, the Titan son of Uranus and Gaia. If you come across any Hellenistic and Roman mosaics depicting him, he is often seen with the upper body of a man with muscles and a lengthy beard and horns. His lower torso is the same as a serpent.  

Mnemosyne

In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne is the personification of memory. Born to Gaia and Uranus, she is also known as the mother of the Nine Muses, which she had with Zeus – the ruler of all Greek gods and goddesses.

Tethys

As the daughter of Uranus and Gaia, Tethys served as the aquatic sea goddess in ancient Greek myths and was also both the sister and wife of Oceanus. In classical Greek poetry and other text, she is mentioned as the mother of the chief rivers of the world (the Nile, the Alpheus, and the Maeander). She is also mother to around 3,000 daughters, known as the Oceanids.

Hyperion

The son of Gaia and Uranus, Hyperion was often called the 'Sun High-one' and made literary appearances in the work of Homer and Hesiod.

Theia

This Titaness is known for ruling the sun and is featured in a handful of myths that date back to Classical Antiquity days.

Coeus and Phoebe

As part of the list of Titans, Coeus does not actively appear in any aspects of Greek religion. Coeus was known as the Titan of Wisdom in myth, and for this reason, considered one of the smartest out of the Titans. Along with his sister, known as 'shining' Phoebe, he fathered Leto and Asteria. Further down the family tree, Leto would bring twins Artemis and Apollo into the world with Zeus as their father. In traditional circles, Phoebe was associated with the moon.

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