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Creation Myths
The Origins of the Universe
How does Hesiod describe the creation of the
world? (Forces, powers, processes involved)
Hesiod’s version of creation:
•Chaos is the primal element;from Chaos come:
•Eros (procreative force),
•Tartarus and Erebus (realms of the underworld)
•Ge (or Gaia, “Earth”)
•Sexual reproduction (or asexual, in some cases) –
natural forces procreate naturally
•Personified concepts express natural forces
Night gives birth to a
number of scary
concepts . . .
Great Altar of Zeus - Pergamon: Nyx Goddess of Night hurls a serpent-wound
vessel at a Giant
Here she is shown on
the side of order,
fighting against the
giants – slinging a
serpent-wound jar at a
Giant who is partserpent himself.
“About Earth I will sing, allmother, deep-rooted and eldest,
who nourishes all that there is in
the world: all that go on the
divine land, all that sail on the sea
and all that fly . . .
Rich and fortunate are those
whom you honor. . . their fields
are laden with produce . . .
One of the very rare
representations of Gaia, from a
Gigantomachy on the Altar of
Zeus at Pergamum
They rule with good laws in cities
of beautiful women and much
Hail, mother of the gods, wife of
starry Uranus . . .
Homeric Hymn to Gaia
What is the role of Gaia in
creation? What sort of a goddess is Gaia?
Sacred Marriage
lict/ progress
Sacred Marriage, hieros
gamos, is an archetype
found in many different
cultures. In Greece, Gaia
and Uranus fill this role.
Why is sacred marriage such
a wide-ranging mythic
Hesiod’s Creation story is
founded on several violent
1) The castration of
Uranus (who wan’t
letting his own
children be born) by
2) The deposing of
Cronus (who had
swallowed his own
children) by Zeus
3) The battle of Gods
and Titans
4) The Battle of gods
and Giants
What role does violence
play in creation stories of
all sorts? Consider
biblical creation, scientific
explanations, and other
creation stories you are
familiar with.
Titans: Helius
“Helius” is the Greek word for
“sun” – a personified concept.
Helius drives a four-horse
chariot to bring the sun across
the sky, crossing into our world
at the rim of ocean.
Phaethon and the sun chariot
He appears as all-seeing, as in
the Homeric Hymn to Demeter
What is the lesson of the
story of Phaethon?
Titans: Selene
She drives a two-horse chariot, or rides
a horse, crossing Helios at the ocean.
U. Colorado
Selene is Greek
for “Moon.”
Titans: Selene
Selene loved Endymion, a
mortal. Either by his choice
or by an oversight, he was
granted immortality but
accompanied by eternal sleep.
Forum Romanum
Selene looks down on him
every night as she passes over
the meadow where he lies
All the same, Selene and Endymion had 50 children!
The cosmic powers are eternal – human life cannot be
extended in the same way. Even humans who become
immortal have limits to their immortality.
Titans: Eos (Aurora)
Eos, or dawn, drove a two-horse
chariot, preceding the sun.
She was actually more important
in mythology than either Helius
or Selene, figuring in the local
myths of several towns and
featuring prominently in
Athenian art.
She has elements in common with
Usas, a goddess from the Sanskrit
Vedas – and with Aphrodite and
Titans: Eos (Aurora)
Two stories show her as a
(1) She carried off the
hunter Kephalos to be her
(2) Her husband was
Tithonus, whom she carried
off when he was a young
schoolboy. He was granted
immortality – but forgot
to ask for immortal youth
as well. He grew older and
older and turned into a
Why should the dawn be seductive?
What do these stories show?
Titans: Eos (Aurora)
Eos is also the mother of Memnon, King of the Ethiopians,
killed in the Trojan war. Her mourning emphasizes the
inevitability of death for mortals.
Titans: Oceanus
Oceanus encircles
the world in the
endless stream of
Here the ocean is
symbolized by his
50 daughters, the
Eternal forces
always surround
human struggle!
Alternate creation stories: Aristophanes
“Night, alone, brought forth an
egg, from which Eros, the
desirable, burst forth like a swift
Is it really a creation story if it’s in
a comedy?
This may reflect the beliefs of a religious
cult, Orphism, in which the world egg
played a central part.
Alternate creation stories: Demokritos
The world begins as
indiscriminate atoms,
all spinning around
Eventually the atoms
are drawn together
into the masses that
make up the stars,
planets, and earth
All matter is made up
of atoms, and no
matter is ever lost or
What are the philosophical implications of this story?
Other ideas
Binary oppositions
and the formation of
Mysticism vs.
Matriarchy and