Category Archives: Mythology

Greek & Roman Mythology – Cronus

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There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.  

Today we cover the Greek God Cronus, other postings examine more particularly the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with the view of preparing the way for the descriptions that follow of the gods individually.

Cronus

Cronus and RheaCRONUS, “The ripener, the harvest god,” was, as we have already remarked, a son of Uranus.  That he continued for a long time to be identified with the Roman deity, Saturnus, is a mistake which recent research has set right, and accordingly we shall devote a separate chapter to each. Uranus, deposed from the throne of the gods, was succeeded by Cronus, who married his own sister Rhea, a daughter of Gaea, who bore him Pluto, Poseidon (Neptune) and Zeus (Jupiter), Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera (Juno). To prevent the fulfilment of a prophecy which had been communicated to him by his parents, that, like his father, he too would be dethroned by his youngest son, Cronus swallowed his first five children apparently as each came into the world. But when the sixth child appeared, Rhea, his wife, determined to save it, and succeeded in duping her husband by giving him a stone (perhaps rudely hewn into the figure of an infant) wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed, believing he had got rid of another danger.

While the husband was being deceived in this fashion, Zeus, the newly born child, was conveyed to the island of Crete, and there concealed in a cave on Mount Ida. The nymphs Adrastea and Ida tended and nursed him, the goat Amalthea supplied him with milk, bees gathered honey for him,Curetes Guarding Zeus and in the mean time, lest his infantile cries should reach the cars of Cronus, Rhea’s servants, the Curetes, were appointed to keep up a continual noise and din in the neighborhood by dancing and clashing their swords and shields.

When Zeus had grown to manhood he succeeded by the aid of Gaea, or perhaps of Metis, in persuading Cronus to yield bark into the light the sons whom he had swallowed and the stone which had been given him in deceit. The stone was placed at Delphi as a memorial for all time. The liberated gods joined their brethren in a league to drive their father from the throne and set Zeus in his place.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Cronus on Encyclopedia Mythica

Greek & Roman Mythology – Uranus

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There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.  

Here we cover the Greek God Uranus, other posting examine more particularly the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with the view of preparing the way for the descriptions that follow of the gods individually.

Uranus

Council of the GodsUranus is a personification of the sky as the ancients saw and understood its phenomena, and with him, according to the version of mythology usually accepted by the Greeks, commences the race of gods. Next succeeded Cronus, and lastly, Zeus (Jupiter).  With regard to this triple succession of supreme rulers of the world, we should notice the different and progressive signification of their three names, Uranus signifying the heavens viewed as husband of the earth, and by his warmth and moisture producing life and vegetation everywhere on it; Cronus, his successor, being the god of harvest, who also ripened and matured every form of life; while in the person of Zeus (Jupiter), god of the light of heaven, as his name implies, culminated the organization and perfectly wise and just dispensation of the affairs of the universe.  Uranus, as we have already observed, was a son of Gaea (the earth), whom he afterward married, the fruit of that union being the Titans, the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyolopes.

The Hecatoncheires, or Centimani, beings each with a hundred hands, were three in number: Cottus, Gyges or Gyes, and Briareus, and represented the frightful crashing of waves and its resemblance to the convulsion of earthquakes. The Cyolopes also were three in number: Brontes with his thunder, Steropes with his lightning, and Arges with his stream of light. They were represented as having only one eye, which was placed at the juncture between nose and brow. It was, however, a large flashing eye, as became beings who were personifications of the storm-cloud, with its flashes of destructive lightning and peals of thunder.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Uranus – God of the Sky

Uranus – at the Roman Colosseum

Norse Mythology – Odin

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Odin

OdinThe physical origin of the idea of Odin is evident, first from the moaning of his name, and, secondly, from the various attributes assigned to him.  The word Odin is simply another form of Woden, or Wuotan, which Grimm connects with the Latin vadere.  He is thus the moving, life-giving breath or air of heaven; and as such corresponds to the Hindoo Brahmin – Atman (German, Athem), or ever-present life and energy.  His Greek correlative is, of course, Zeus, who is likewise spoken of as All-father.  The name Zeus is derived from a root signifying “to shine,” and thus the King of the Greek Asgard was originally “the glistening ether.”  

It was but natural that Odin, as the personification of the blue sky, should rule the rain-clouds and the sunlight; hence as Odin the rain-giver he corresponds with Zeus Ombrios (the showery Zeus), while as the light-god he is merely a Norse Phoebus or Apollo, whose spear – the sun rays – disperses the darkness.  As sky-god, and god of the moving air, he was, no less naturally or inevitably, invoked as the protector of sailors.  In this respect he corresponds or is interchangeable with Thor.  But this interchange, or overlapping, of functions is as distinctive of Norse as of Greek mythology,

Finally, Zeus and Odin resemble each other in their development from purely physical into spiritual beings.  Odin, the ever-present ether, becomes the ever-present and ever-knowing spirit, the Father of all.  And as Zeus is the father of the Muses, so Odin is the father of Saga, the goddess of poetry. The two ravens that sat on the shoulders of Odin, and every morning brought him news of what was passing in the world, were called Hunin and Munin – Thought and Memory.  Memory, or Muemosyne, was the mother of the Greek Muses.  

A trace of the worship of Odin survives even to the present day.  In one of the Orkney islands is an Odin stone, in a hollow of which superstitious people thrust their hands, by way of testifying on their most solemn oath.  The island of Heligoland is said to have derived its name from Odin, who was also named Helgi (der Helige), or the Holy.  “Charles’s Wain” as we now call it, was named Odin’s Wain; and the “Milky Way” was also known as Odin’s Way.  Unlike Zeus – the Greek All-father – Odin was also a god of war.  Hence it was that, as already observed, he received into Walhalla one-half of the heron slain in battle.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Norse Mythology

Odin – Ruler of the Universe

Greek Mythology – Apollo

Phoebus Apollo, Helios, or Sol

Apollo

From the sun comes our physical light, but that light is at the same time an emblem of all mental illumination, of knowledge, truth, and right, of all moral purity; and in this respect a distinction was made between it as a mental and a physical phenomenon a distinction which placed Phoebus Apollo on one side and  Helios on the other.  Accordingly Phoebus Apollo is the oracular god who throws light on the dark ways of the future, who slays the Python, that monster of darkness which made the oracle at Delphi inaccessible.  He is the god Helios, or Sol. of music and song, which are only heard where light and security reign and the possession of herds is free from danger.  Helios, on the other hand, is the physical phenomenon of light, the orb of the sun, which, summer and winter, rises and sets in the sky.  His power of bringing secrets to light has been already seen in the story of Vulcan and Venus.

The myth of Apollo is, like that of Aphrodite, one of the oldest in the Greek system, but, unlike the latter, which is at least partly traceable to oriental influence, is a pure growth of the Greek mind.  No doubt certain oriental nations had deities of the sun and of light similar in some points to Apollo, but this only proves the simple fact that they viewed the movements of the sun and the operations of light in a general way similarly to the Greeks.  We have seen in the preceding chapters how the sky, earth, sea, and lower world were personified by divine beings of a high order, while in the same way other forces and powers in nature were imagined as beings.  In the myth of Apollo we shall find represented the various operations of the eternal light of the sun.

It is the sun’s rays, or the arrows of Apollo, that everywhere, as the fields and gardens teach us, quicken life, and foster it toward ripeness; through them a new life springs all around, and in the warmth of their soft, kindly light the jubilant voice of nature is heard and awakens an echo in the human soul.  At the same time these arrows destroy the life of plants and animals; even man falls under them in southern climates, such as Greece.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Greek God Apollo

Apollo – God of the Sun

Greek & Roman Mythology – Aphrodite or Venus

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Aphrodite or Venus

Aphrodite or VenusWas the goddess of love in that wide sense of the word which in early times embraced also the love of animals, and the love which was thought to be the cause of productiveness throughout nature.  

Accordingly we find in her character, side by side with what is beautiful and noble, much that is coarse and unworthy.  In the best times of Greece the refined and beautiful features of her worship were kept in prominence, both in poetry and art; but these, when times of luxury succeeded, had to give way to impurities of many kinds.  

The feelings awakened by observing the productive power of nature had, it would seem, given rise to a divine personification of love in very remote early times among the nations of the East.  The Phoenicians called this personification Astarte, and carried her worship with them wherever they established factories or markets in Greece, in the islands of the Mediterranean, and on to Italy.  The early Greeks coming in contact with these traders, and obtaining from them a knowledge of coinage, weights, measures, and other necessaries of commerce and trade including, it is said, a system of writing appear to have transferred some of the functions of the oriental goddess to their own Aphrodite, as, for instance, the function of protecting commerce.  The earliest known Greek coins – those of Aegina – the weights of which correspond accurately with the oriental standard, have the figure of a tortoise, the well-known symbol of Aphrodite.  How much else of the character of their goddess the Greeks may have derived from the Phoenicians it would be impossible to say.  But the extraordinary zeal with which she continued to be worshipped in Cyprus, Cythera, Corinth, Carthage, Sicily, and wherever in early times the Phoenicians had made settlements, may signify that others of her functions besides that of protecting commerce had been borrowed from the oriental goddess.  The older Aphrodite worshipped in Greece previous to the introduction of Phoenician elements in her character is described as a daughter of Zeus (Iliad v. 312) and Dione, and through her mother was associated with the ancient worship at Dodona.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

More on Aphrodite

Greek & Roman Mythology – Ares or Mars

ARES, OR MARS

ARES, OR MARS

A son of Zeus (Jupiter) and Hera (Juno), according to the belief of the Greeks, was originally god of the storm and tempest, and more particularly of the hurricane; but this his natural meaning was lost sight of at an earlier period, and more completely than in the case of most of the other gods, the character in which he appears to us being exclusively that of “god of the turmoil and storms in human affairs,” in other words, “god of dreadful war,” or more correctly, “of the wild confusion and strife of battle.”  Of all the upper gods he was the most fierce and terrible, taking pleasure in slaughter and massacre.

In this respect he forms a striking contrast to Pallas Athene, the goddess of well-matched chivalrous fights, who we often find opposed to him in mythical narratives.  When fighting she was invulnerable, and always on the side of the victor; while Ares (Mars) being not only god of battle but also a personification of war, with its double issue of victory and defeat, was sometimes wounded, and even taken prisoner.

When assisting the Trojans in their war with the Greeks, in the course of which he took under his special protection their leader, Hector, he was wounded by the Greek hero Diomedes, aided by the goddess Athene.  He fell – so Homer describes the event in the Iliad (v. 853) – with a thundering crash to the ground, like the noise of ten thousand warriors engaged in battle.  Again (Iliad xxi.400) he was wounded by Athene and fell, his armor clanking, and his body covering with his fall seven acres of ground – an obvious reference to the roar and destruction attending a great storm.

He was once captured by Otus and Ephialtes, the giant sons of Aloeus the planter, and kept imprisoned in a great bronze vase (Iliad v. 385) for thirteen months – a space of time which, when we remember that the names of the two heroes are derived from husbandry, seems to indicate a full year of peaceful agriculture.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Greek Mythology on Wikipedia

Ares – God of War