Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TFBT: Obscure References to Titans

This is a continuation of the series of papers generated by the continuing conversations of WilliamMoulton2 and Maya M.  This paper discusses obscure references to the nature of the Titans. 

A little background here; the elder gods in Greek mythology are called the Titans.  They were the twelve children of starry Uranus the primordial sky-god and wide-bosomed Gaea the earth; six male “Titans” and six female “Titanesses”.  The overreaching Titans were; the earth encircling river god Oceanus, Koios, Krios, Hyperion the primordial sun, Iapetus and the youngest Cronus.  Most of whom ended up in Tartarus along with their sons after Zeus took over.

According to Aaron J. Atsma  when the Titans overthrew their cruel father Uranus, “Krios, Koios, Hyperion and Iapetus were posted at the four corners of the world where they seized hold of the Sky-god and held him fast, while Cronus hidden in the center, castrated him with a sickle” provided by their mother. Hyperion was no doubt regarded as the Titan of the pillar of the east. Koios' alternate name, Polos "of the northern pol”), suggests he was the Titan of the pillar of the north[i] Oceanus whose theoretical place of existence was outside this little drama and therefore “neutral” as he and the female deities were to be until the Gigantomachy.  

That leaves Iapetus as the Titan of the West; a likely scenario since that is the post inherited by his son Atlas and because Iapetus is the titan most associated with the realm of Hades.  (Iliad 8.479)    Iapetus’ sons became leaders among the Titans “rebelling” against Zeus, specifically glorious Menoetius whom . . . “far-seeing Zeus struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebus because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride." (  Hesiod, Theogony 507) .  Atsma also suggests  Menoetius was perhaps identical to Menoites the herdsman of Hades, whom Herakles wrestled with in the underworld.”

Finally , among the Titan subduers of Uranus would be Crios at the south.  Krios has three sons; Perses the father of Hecate, Astraeus husband of the Dawn, and Pallas husband of the River Styx, chiefest of them all the Oceanides.  (Odd that two of Krios’ sons are wed to Zeus’ first allies.)   According to Atsma again, Perses as the dog-star may have been imagined with canine features. His father and brothers were all associated with animals--Krios was literally; the ram, Astraeus was a horse- or ass-featured and Pallas was a goatish god.   Astraeus’ sons were the Anemoi, the horse-shaped gods of the winds. Two of them Boreas and Zephyrus, were the sires of immortal horses. Zeus, god of storms, was sometimes described as driving a chariot drawn by the four horse-shaped winds.  

Cronus too might have had a touch of horsiness, considering  he was the father of the first centaur; Chiron and of Poseidon, the god of horses and sire of many divine horses himself. 

Robert Graves refers to the elder gods as “Titans, lords of the seven-day week”[ii] without any explanation I can find;
·      “Atlas as a simple personification of Mount Atlas…as the Titan of the Second day of the Week, who separated the waters of the firmament from the ware of the earth.”
·      The Oceanide and first wife of Zeus, “immortal Metis, as Titaness of the fourth day” 
·      “Rhea, paired with Cronus as Titaness of the seventh day

The fact that Graves makes Cronus (aka Saturn in the Roman pantheon) titan of Saturday and comments that Hermes is the “god” of the fourth day, suggests that he is using the traditional Western etymology for days of the week.  That means;

·      Helios/Hyperion on the first day Sunday
·      Selene/Phoebe on the second day Monday
·      Ares on the third day Tuesday (I can’t explain the discrepancy.)
·      Hermes on the fourth day Wednesday
·      Zeus on the fifth day Thursday
·      Aphrodite on the sixth day Friday and
·      Cronus on the seventh day, Saturday[iii]

If we accept Nagy’s notion that the name of a son can reflect a main characteristic of the father; (CHS Open House discussion)  maybe we can make a few more assumptions on the ancient Titans. 
  • [Hesiod 507] “Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled mad Clymene,”  Which makes this Titan; daring, (Atlas) arrogant, (Menoetius) and like the elderly Priam at Iliad 3.110 “in whatsoever an old man taketh part, he looketh both before and after,”  (Prometheus and Epimetheus).  Which suggests that Iapetus was eldest of the Titans.
  • (Hesiod 375) “And Eurybia, bright goddess, was joined in love to Crius  making Crius a starry, spear-brandishing destroyer.  


  1. The 7-day week was a Roman introduction in 1st-3rd century AD:

    I don't know of any ancient Greek polis having a calendar with 7-day weeks. Athens divided the months into 10-day periods based on the moon phases:

    I have the feeling that Graves blurs the distinction between popularizing knowledge and writing fiction. As a result, if the reader wants information about the actual Greek mythology, Graves' opus is only marginally better than mine :-).

  2. More thoughts on the Titans:
    Themis had an important role under the rule of Zeus, and Mnemosyne was needed to conceive the Muses from him. Theoretically, they could still be married to 1st generation Titans and either betray their husbands or accept the rule of Zeus after he throws their husbands into Tartarus, but this doesn't look pretty. So I guess this is why two 1st generation Titans are married to Oceanids.
    Then, we could ask why exactly the "half-breeds" fight against Zeus in the Titanomachy or rebel against him after it. But do they really? Actually, there is only one 2nd generation Titan whose anti-Zeus activity is documented by Hesiod - Prometheus (it is funny that Aeschylus makes exactly him ally of Zeus). All others either simply disappear from the picture or we hear that they are punished, but instead of factual descriptions of their crimes, we read epithets such as "outrageous" (for Menoetius). For Atlas, the Theogony does not even make clear whether he is punished with the task to uphold the sky or is simply given this job by Zeus and does not like it too much.
    To my opinion, the key to understanding the fate of the Titans is the fact that Zeus does not tolerate non-disabled males around, except some of his sons. Oceanus and other water gods survive because they are water-bound, the Hyperionides - because they are associated with heavenly bodies and phenomena. Cratus and Zelus "have no house apart from Zeus, nor any dwelling nor path except that wherein God leads them, but they dwell always with Zeus the loud-thunderer". They survive only by completely renouncing their will and their individuality. And as you mentioned, they are childless, so even if they are allowed to retain their reproductive apparatus, they never use it.
    I wonder about the females. They are never portrayed as combatants in the Titanomachy or rebels after that. Yet, we rarely hear of Rhea and never of Theia and Phoebe (except when the latter is said to have lovingly given Delphi to her grandson).

  3. I am still troubled by obscure Menoetius. If he was "very glorious", he was also very successful in hiding his glory. Among other suggestions, I am also considering that Hesiod, for some unknown reason, wanted to bring the number of Iapetus' sons to four. One author thinks that there is "a larger myth in which the gods constrain four supernatural adversaries: Prometheus and his three brothers, and Loki and his three monstrous children":
    Unfortunately, the article itself is not free.

  4. Maya,

    I agree with you there has to be more to the story of Menoetius. But I don't know where to look