Wednesday, August 26, 2015

TFBT: Atsma’s Titanic Theories

If you read my blog regularly you noted references to Aaron Atsma or more probably to his incredible website; .  Atsma has all the primary source materials linked to his site.  He wrote incredibly articles on every god, goddess, demi-god, daemon and divine monster in Greek mythology.  Each entry in his encyclopedic effort is thoroughly referenced with the actual text, thoroughly readable and effectively cross-referenced.  I don’t even have his website bookmarked.  I visit it so often that my Google search field automatically defaults to it.  I am hoping Atsma will accept an invitation from Hour 25  to be a visiting scholar. 

I am sure Mr. Atsma’s finger tips are worn to the bone, putting  together this indispensible site.  Hence, he’s never written anything else that I can find.  I know he has more to share and further insights.   He  offers off-handed little tidbits in his introductions at the beginning of each article and often in the Notes section at the end. (Can’t resist a few quotes here; “The story’s in the details” and “It’s all in the footnotes.”)  While working on an article about “The Combatants of the Titanomachy” I kept running across such interesting things in the footnotes.  I present those “interesting things” here as “Atsma’s Titanic  Theories”.  To be clear this is my interpretation of what I believe is his concept of the first and second generation Titans.


 The first generation Titans were the sons of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth).  Hesiod named them Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and the youngest Cronus.  Conveniently the primordial couple of Sky and Earth also produced six daughters; the Titanesses.  (None of the Titanesses or goddesses actively participated in what happens next.)

“(Cronus) and his brothers conspired against their father, laying an ambush for him as he descended to lie with Earth. Four of the siblings were posted at the corners of the world, where they seized hold of him and held him fast, while Cronus castrated him with a sickle. In this myth the brothers apparently personified the great pillars … holding heaven and earth apart, or sometimes the whole cosmos aloft.” “Hyperion in the east, Iapetus in the west, Coeus in the north and Crius in the south. The fifth Cronus (Time) stood in the centre, and the sixth, Oceanus, circled the world in the form of the river Ocean.”

Not everyone agrees with the identification of Cronus with Chronos  but it has a certain logic.  Time cannot begin until the sun (Hyperion) rises for the first time.  That can’t happen until the Sky and Earth part on a more permanent basis.

“Individually they were apparently responsible for the establishment of the portions of time: Cronus was time, the destroyer; Crius, leader of the constellations, and so regulator of the seasons; Coeus, lord of the axis of heaven, around which the constellations revolved measuring the year; Hyperion, overlord of the day and night, father of sun, moon and dawn; Iapetus Titan-god of mortal life-span and ancestor of man; and Oceanus the earth-encircler, who oversaw the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies. “

Cronus was the Titan  all-devouring time. He was King of the Titans during the first age of man the Golden Age.  “ In fear of a prophecy that he would be in turn be overthrown by his own son, Cronus swallowed each of his children as soon as they were born. His wife/sister Rhea  saved the youngest, Zeus, by hiding him and fed Cronus a stone wrapped in the swaddling clothes. The godling  grew up, forced Cronus to disgorge his swallowed offspring, and led the Olympians in a ten year war against the Titans.  Cronus’ nephew the Iapetides, took over the leadership of the Titanic army.  Eventually the Titans were defeated and tossed into the pit of Tartarus.


Atsma says that Coeus is also called Polos (of the northern pole), suggesting he was the Titan of the pillar of the north and Titan  of the axis of heaven around which the constellations revolved.  Atsma supposes he was probably also a god of heavenly oracles, just as his wife Phoebe presided over the oracle of the center of the earth;  Delphi.  Their  grandson Phoebus Apollo eventually inherited the oracle. “  According to Atsma; “in ancient times this point in the heavens was marked by the star alpha Dra in the constellation Draco.”   His wife/sister, Phoebe, was the complimentary goddess of the navel of the earth; Delphi.  “Clearly Coeus functioned as the prophetic voice of his father Heaven, just as Phoebe was the prophetic voice of her mother Earth. Like Delphi, navel of the earth, the axis of heaven was also guarded by a Drakon: the constellation Draco.”

“The daughters of Coeus appear to have represented the two main branches of prophecy: Leto and her son Apollo presided over the prophetic power of light and heaven, whereas Asteria (wife of Perses below) and her daughter Hecate presided over the prophetic powers of night, chthonian darkness and the ghosts of the dead.”   


“Crius' connection with the south is found both in his name and family connections--he is "the Ram," the constellation Aries, whose springtime rising in the south marked the start of the Greek year; his eldest son is Astraios, god of the stars; and his wife is Eurybia, a daughter of the sea. .. Crius was in this sense also the primordial god of the constellations who ordered the measures of the year, Crius' other sons were Perses the Destroyer and the sometimes goat-skinned Titan Pallas the spear-brandishing one,  “

He supposes that the sons were totemic-gods. Pallas, whose skin became Athena's aegis was goatish. Perses,  father of the dog accompanied Hecate, was perhaps dog-like. Astraios was  father of horse-shaped wind-gods.

“Iapetus himself was no doubt the pillar of the west, a position which was later and more obviously held by his son Atlas.  Iapetus "the piercer" may also have been regarded as the Titan god of the mortal life-span. Indeed, his sons Prometheus and Epimetheus were represented as the creators of mankind and other mortal creatures.  Iapetus and his bride Clymene.” 

Note; she was not his sister but rather a water nymph)  might have been conceived with a variety of functions”  Atsma envisions Iapetus and his sons as craftsmen.  “The Awl” being one interpretation of his name. 

“The sons of Iapetus were also described as possessing some of the worst of human traits : on an intellectual level, Prometheus is overly sly and crafty, Epimetheus a guileless fool, Atlas overly daring, and arrogant Menoitios prone to rash and violent actions. Iapetus may be the same as Keuthonymos, a mysterious underworld daemon named as the father of Menoites, herdsman of Hades. It is reasonable to assume that this Menoites is identical to Menoitios, son of Iapetus.”

Without being too clear about it Atsma is following  Homer, (Iliad 8. 479) in making Iapetus of the realm eventually called Hades. 


“He and his brothers also seem to have been viewed as the ancient gods responsible for the creation of man, and who each bestowed a quality. Hyperion as his name suggests ("he who watches from above") was clearly associated with watching and observation, just as his wife, Theia, was the goddess of sight (thea), and so theirs was surely the gift of eyes and sight.”  “Hyperion--father of sun, dawn and moon--ordered the days and months. “

Hyperion was of course the elder Titan of the Sun and represented the East.  Hence, it is not surprising that his son Helios’ primary residence is in the east and that his grandson Aeetes rules the most easterly known human realm. Hyperion sired Helios (the sun), Selene (the moon) and rosy-fingered Eos the Dawn.  


“ Oceanus was the Titan … of the great earth-encircling river Oceanus, the font of all the earth's fresh-water: including rivers, wells, springs and rain-clouds. Oceanus was also the god who regulated the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies which were believed to emerge and descend into his watery realm at the ends of the earth. .. Their children were the … River-Gods and Oceanides, nymphs of springs and fountains. Unlike his brother Titans, Oceanus neither participated in the castration of Uranus nor joined the battle against the younger Olympian gods. ….
Oceanus was depicted in ancient Greek vase painting as a bull-horned god with the tail of a serpentine fish in place of legs, similar to his river-god sons. … His wife Tethys, shown seated beside him, had wings on her brow, in the role of mother of rain-clouds.”

 This pair who lived outside of our known reality maintained their neutrality and offered shelter to the goddesses and Titanesses during the water between the Titans and Cronus children.  Cronus’ children were of course the Olympians led by Zeus. 


“The Titans were eventually deposed by Zeus and cast into the pit of Tartarus. Hesiod describes this as a void located beneath the foundations of all, where earth, sea and sky have their roots. Here the Titans shift in cosmological terms from being holders of heaven to bearers of the entire cosmos. According to Pindar and Aeschylus the Titans were eventually released from the pit through the clemency of Zeus.”   “Many human generations later, Zeus released Cronus and his brothers from this prison, and made the old Titan king of the Elysian Islands, home of the blessed dead.”

1 comment:

  1. There is no Titan in charge of the sea! Curious. You may laugh at me for realizing this only now. It is difficult for me to fit into another worldview, even if it is described in detail. I know that Oceanus and Tethys are the Titans of a (non-existent) all-encompassing freshwater river, yet I keep associating them with the sea, the ocean as we use the world now. In fact, it seems that there were no Uranids in the sea until the era of Poseidon.