February 03, 2009

#01-215: Meet the Titans - Part I

figure of a man's head in a black-and-white image of a mosaic; the word "ESIODVS" is spelled out within the image
Hesiod, from a Roman mosaic

Note: The Titans and their kin play important roles in most of the early Greek myths. Meet four of the twelve in the first of this two-part lesson.

Get Ready: Hesiod's book Theogony means "origin of the gods." How do YOU think the gods (Greek or otherwise) originated?

In this lesson we'll begin looking at some characters from Hesiod's Theogony, one of the Great Books of Western culture.

Hesiod was a Greek author living around the time of Homer, perhaps in the 8th century BCE. The name Theogony means "origin of the gods." The characters in the book represent the spectrum of natural and even human phenomena, from heaven and earth to messengers and metal workers.

Perhaps you've heard of a large, powerful ship known as "The Titanic"? It was named after a group of large, powerful gods known as "The Titans," who, like that ship, eventually were destroyed.

The Titans were the children of father Ouranos ("Sky," more familiar to us as the name of the planet Uranus) and mother Gaia ("Earth," whose name is now found in words like "geology" and "geography").

Hesiod names twelve Titans; I repeat their names here, with some explanation (four now, eight more in Lesson #01-216). Their Roman (Latin) names are given in parentheses if different from the Greek.

  • Okeanos (Oceanus): He is the world-ocean, believed to encircle the globe near the equator. He is also the father of all seas, rivers and streams--it's easy to imagine the ocean in such a role. He was married to his sister Tethys (see next). By the way, when I was growing up, we virtually never said "sea"; "ocean" was the more common word for the water. But instead of saying, "Let's go to the sea," we said, "Let's go to the beach."
  • Tethys: Sister and wife to Okeanos, her name means "Grandmother" or "Nurse"--anyway, a gentle, nurturing woman She was the source of all fresh-water springs that nourished ("nursed") the earth. With her husband Okeanos she gave birth to the rivers, streams, springs, fountains, and clouds. She has lent her name to one of the moons of Saturn, as well as an ancient sea of which the Mediterranean is all that remains.
  • Koios (Polus): His name means "Questioning," so he is sometimes thought to be a god of the intellect. The Roman name tells us his other role: he is the pole or axis around which the heavens revolve. He was married to Phoibe (see next), with whom he had children.
  • Phoibe (Phoebe): Her name (a popular one with Chinese girls) means "bright," suitable since she is often a personification of the moon. Her name also became part of the title "Phoebus Apollo," another name for the sun (her grandson). She, like Tethys, also has a moon of Saturn named after her. Her name may also mean "prophecy": she was the goddess of the famous "Oracle at Delphi," where fortunes were told.

In Lesson #01-216: eight more Titans.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesiod

Practice: Match the name to its description below:

  1. Gaia
  2. Koios
  3. Okeanos
  4. Oracle at Delphi
  5. Ouranos
  6. Phoebus Apollo
  7. Phoibe
  8. Polus
  9. Tethys
  10. The Titans

  1. the sun god, and grandson of Phoibe
  2. presided over by the goddess Phoibe
  3. the name means "earth," and is found in words like "geology" and "geography"
  4. the children of Ouranos and Gaia
  5. encircles the globe near the equator
  6. the moon, she is married to Koios
  7. his name indicates he may be a god of the intellect
  8. the Roman name for Koios, it indicates his role as the axis of the heavens
  9. her name may mean "nurse," and she's married to Okeanos
  10. the name means "sky," and in another form is the name of a planet in our solar system

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 3, 2009

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. g; 3. e; 4. b; 5. j; 6. a; 7. f; 8. h; 9. i; 10. d