Hesiod’s Theogeny

Penn Arts and Sciences.  In week 5 we now turn away from The Odyssey to Hesiod’s Theogeny:

We will take a close look at the most authoritative story on the origin of the cosmos from Greek antiquity: Hesiod’s Theogony. Hesiod was generally considered the only poet who could rival Homer. The Theogony, or “birth of the gods,” tells of an older order of gods, before Zeus, who were driven by powerful passions—and strange appetites! This poem presents the beginning of the world as a time of fierce struggle and violence as the universe begins to take shape, and order, out of chaos

The Greeks are connected to many cultures.  The Sumerians and Hittites are pre Greek, also the Babylonians.  They all have their own creation myths.  The Babylonians have the Enuma Elish.


The Enuma Elis is the Babylonian creation myth (named for its incipit). It was recovered by Henry Layard in 1849 (in fragmentary form) in the ruined library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq), and published by George Smith in 1876.

The Enuma Elish has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets, each holding between 115 and 170 lines of text. The majority of Tablet V has never been recovered, but aside from this lacuna the text is almost complete. A duplicate copy of Tablet V has been found in Sultantepe, ancient Huzirina, located near the modern town of Sanlõurfa in Turkey.

This epic is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview, centered on the supremacy of Marduk and the creation of mankind for the service of the gods. Its primary original purpose, however, is not an exposition of theology or theogony, but the elevation of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods.

The Enuma Elish exists in various copies from Babylonia and Assyria. The version from Ashurbanipal’s library dates to the 7th century BC. The story itself probably dates to the 18th century BC, the time when the god Marduk seems to have achieved a prominent status, although some scholars give it a later date (14th to 12th centuries BC.)

http://www.crystalinks.com/enumaelish.html – link to the tablets script

Similarities with Greek Mythology:  Marduk is similar to Zeus, he is a sky god.

The Sumerians had their own system of gods and goddesses:  They are linked to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest book/story.

There is a lot of information about this topic which I need to read up – I think this section is going to take a lot of extra work!


First of all Chawos  came into being. But then Gaia broad-chested, always the unshakable seat of all the immortals who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus,and dark Tartaros in the recesses of the wide-wayed earth,and Eros, the most beautiful among the immortal gods, loosener of limbs, who subdues the mind and prudent counsel in the chests of all gods and of all men.

chaos translates better as Chasm, rather than chaos, or emptiness.  Earth is a key character in H’s gen. structures.  Tartaros a region down below.  Eros is an abstract sexual idea, not gentle, its violent and dangerous.

Chasm reproduces on her own  but Erebos and Night come together to produce air and day.  When repro happens we have to pay some attention.

Week 5 : Alpha stage of repro’n.  There are generations out of the earth, including sky, sky becomes her partner, then come an order of Titans, fiercing children.  Also come monsters, Cyclops, hundredhanders, strangely giant creatures.  These early generations of creatures and not right.


The Hundred Handers


Their name means “hundred – handed ones”, and apart from a hundred hands of unfathomable strength, they also had fifty heads. They were children of the Titans Uranus and Gaea; they were three, Briareus or Aegaeon (the vigorous or the sea goat), Cottus (the striker or the furious) and Gyges (the big-limbed).

Sky and Earth reproduce.  Earth gets annoyed and does not want sky on top of her every night!  So she talks to the children, and complains, sky is pushing back into her what is trying to get out.  The  male principal sky is having problems with the female principle earth.  Sky tells the children to take a knife and to cut off his genitals.  Cronos does it and hurls them into the sea.  The castration of sky, disempowing, then lots happens, earth becomes productive, evil beasts, doom and death, misery, deceit, from the genitals comes blood into the earth – Ernyes.  Aphrodite grows out of the foam at this moment,  she grows out of the foam of the severed genitals of the sky.  Zeus gives birth too.

Parthenogenesis, creation by a single principle.  Zeus has this power.  then we get a long list of monsters, like Medusa, Chimera, Hydra, the Chameleon Lion. coming out of the prior alpha stage of creation.  We also get nymphs – nereid nymphs

Next:  Chronos and Rhea: Beta Stage

In the second generation, these two reproduce all kinds of things – Chronos is nasty, tough time, his mother makes him commit a crime against his father.  In contrast to the earlier generation, Chronos takes all the creatures and eats his own children, that come out of Rhea.  these children are not digested, they sit in his stomach, Rhea develops a scheme, a stone wrapped in cloth, he takes the stone, swallows it down, it’s not a child.  The child is taken away to Crete, Zeus, he finally becomes powerful enough to win a struggle.

The Amphalos is the stone, the centre of the earth, the navel.  Delphi was created.  You can visit this stone in Delphi. The arrival of humeings

The arrival of human beings.  They give the gods sacrifice.  Prometheus, happens at Mekone.  Yappatos.  Prometheus gets involved in a sacrifice.  Zeus is there and witnesses the sac. Prom makes two piles of bones with fat, he hides the animals.  He tells Z to choose one of the animals, he is not deceived and takes the bones and eats them leaving the meat for the humans.  This is a typical sacrifice.  They take the bones wrap them in fat, burn them and send them to the gods.

Zeus is angry and steals the fire and keeps it.  Prometheus works his way back and steals the fire again.  Z is angry and punishes P through eternity.  A bird eats out P’s liver, and then it grows back and so on…

Zeus is not done at Mekone.  He now needs to punish humans, he creates a race of women! 

War, Cosmos and Reproduction.  Next how Zeus conquer earlier generation of Titans.  He frees the cyclopes and then befriended by them and he was given a thunderbolt. Titans suffer. Zeus wins with his thunderbolt and his alliances.  The Titans are freed.  The earth shakes.  There is agreat struggle.  The hundredhanders assist Zeus.  The cyclopes too. 


He restrains and binds the titans, in the chasm, the earth shakes the universe, zeus wins and its final and he overthrows Tipheus.   The gods make Z king.  This is in parallel with the universe achieving its order.  The heavens are so far above the earth. The River Styx. All waters come out of the ocean.

zThe lecturer talked about how many creatures were created by Zeus. He is now the principle reproducer and takes over from Gaia.  There is a long string of events, he has relations with Metis and he swallows her down.  Her name means practical wisdom.  He appropriates the power of reproduction and internalises wisdom.  He is now wise.  She gives birth and he gives birth to Athene!

Freud – we pursue pleasure, where is it found: food, sex, dominant. kept in check by the repression barrier.  We are forbidden to have relations with a parent. 

Next:  week 6: Ritual and Religion:  purification is important, certain foods, actions, sacrifice –  often using large animals.  Decoration attached.  The people would have a good meal after, giving something to the goddess, thigh bones in fat, wine, milk, grains, fruits.  Why do the gods want us to kill animals.  Is there a blood guilt? Reinforces mortality.  In strong contrast to the gods. Pouring of wine as a libation.  Drunken for Dionysus. 


Games, theatre and games.  Maybe this is when the Olympic Games started as part of a ritual.  Also the Hymns would be sung in honour of a god. 

The Hymn to Demeter. The loses her daughter Persephone and she tries to find her.  Fertility in the Eleusinian Mysteries.  Setting up of rights.  Demeter wants a temple and altar.

Initiation.  Secret – characteristic of the Eleu Myst.  Nine day chunk of time wandering and a special drink om her honour


Abuse is built into these rituals. Ancient cultic worship is about gift giving and asking the gods to be kind.

A promise of a long afterlife!  rather than a grey shade.   

The Eleusinian mysteries were the most famous in ancient Greece. Mysteries were religious practices characterized by initiation rites, cathartic and ecstatic practices, and a code of silence. Eleuseos means “the coming,” so the word Eleusinian refers to a spiritual advent. Mysterion means to close the mouth or eyes; its root mu imitates the sound made with the lips closed. Mysteria thus signified an event defined by closing the lips, closing the eyes, and entering into darkness. The journey of consciousness taken from that point onward was a mystery indeed, and yet we will explore these mysteries.

The rites at Eleusis were built around legends of the great mother Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The oldest written source of this myth is the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, dated around the 7th century BCE, which may be summarized as follows:

Persephone, playing in a meadow, came across a large and wondrous narcissus. As she reached for it, the ground gave way and the dark lord of the underworld, Hades, appeared on his golden chariot. He carried her off screaming to Zeus and the gods for help. Demeter heard her and rushed to find what had happened. For nine days she wandered the earth. On the tenth she appealed to the Sun who sees all in his daily travels. He reported that Zeus had given Persephone to his brother Hades to be his wife.

Demeter, filled with grief, was angry. She removed all signs of her divinity and as an old woman walked the earth in quest of her daughter. At Eleusis she sat on the outskirts of town near a well; Clement of Alexandria noted that sitting on a well “is even now prohibited to those who are initiated, lest they should appear to mimic the weeping goddess.”

 Metaneira and Demeter; the former was awaiting a child.  Persephone is making a transition from girl to woman/wife; it is clearly as a violence done to her, it’s painful, the single sorce of trauma.  P : fear, isolation, loss of innocence.  Her visit to the underworld is a kind of death.  The pomegranate seed is a symbol for the man’s seed, and she took it in and her status changes.  Have you eaten anything asks Demeter?  A moment filled with trauma, pain and loss. 

Demophoon is given ambrosia and kept in a fire like a log to make him a god, not a mortal.

The Hymn to Apollo (Delian Apollo):  Oxford Literary Website



The twins Apollo and Artemis