The Theogony By Hesiod: The Creation Of World Power

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the Theogony, at the beginning creation is a wholly female power; Gaia needs no one else to carry it out; creation is a female power. As the story of creation unfolds, we see further evidence of female divinities having the power of spontaneous generation, but ultimately creation becomes a male power by Zeus when he swallows Metis and gives birth to Athena. Nonetheless, Hera maintains the female power of spontaneous generation.

In the Theogony, creation begins as a power that belongs exclusively to the female deities. As the creation story continues, this power of creation gets subverted by Zeus, eventually reinforcing his position as king of the gods. Hesiod begins Theogony with an invocation to the Muses. He calls upon them to “Make known the eerie brood of the eternal Immortals, who were born of Earth and starry Sky, and of dusky Night, and whom the salt Sea bore” and to tell the story of the creation of the universe and the generations of gods that rule over it. The universe begins with “only Chaos, the Abyss, but then Gaia, the Earth, came into being, Her broad bosom the ever-firm foundation of all”. Chaos, a genderless entity, creates Gaia Tartaros, and Eros through asexual reproduction. In turn, Gaia spontaneously generates Ouranos (starry Heaven), the Mountains and the Sea. They are all born solely to Gaia, with no participation from any other deities. Gaia represents spontaneous generation and pure creation. She is the foundation of everything, and the ancestor of Greek mythology and creation- the entire lineage of the Greek gods can be traced back to her.

The next wave of creation is a sexual one. Gaia sleeps with Ouranos and bears the Titans- the six sons and six daughters of Earth and Heaven. Ouranos, fearing his children, stuffed them “back into a hollow of Earth soon as they were born”. Rebelling against this, Gaia hatches a plan and has her son Kronos castrate Ouranos, emasculating and overthrowing him. This act of violence results in creation- Ouranos’ blood is soaked up by Gaia who then gives birth to the Furies, the Giants, and ash-tree nymphs called Meliai. Ouranos’ severed genitalia fall into the sea, and Aphrodite is born from them. Aphrodite’s creation isn’t truly asexual, even though she isn’t created from sexual intercourse. Her birth would be impossible without the intervention of Gaia and Kronos, and the violent castration of Ouranos. Night, born from Chaos, spontaneously generates a host of other early gods including Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, and Dreams. “Sleeping with no one, the ebony goddess Night gave birth to Blame and agonizing Grief”. Night also creates the Destinies, the Fates, Nemesis, Deception, Friendship, Old Age, and Eris, also known as Strife. “Hateful Eris bore agonizing Toil, Forgetfulness, Famine, and tearful Pains, Quarrels, Lying words, and Words Disputatious, Lawlessness and Recklessness, who share one nature, and Oath, who most troubles men upon Earth when anyone willfully swears a false oath”. After Kronos overthrows Ouranos, he becomes king. Kronos rapes his sister Rheia, then swallows the resulting offspring for fear of being overthrown himself. Rheia, obviously upset by this, “petitioned her parents, Earth and starry Heaven, to put together some plan so that the birth of her child might go unnoticed, and she would make devious Kronos pay the Avengers of her father and children”.

Here we see Gaia’s second role in the Theogony. She transitions from a creator of life to an advisor, creating ideas and plans to aid her family. Following Gaia’s advice, Rheia hides Zeus when he is born and gives Kronos a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes in place of baby Zeus. “The seasons followed each other, and great devious Kronos, gulled by Earth’s clever suggestions, vomited up his offspring”. Gaia again aids in Rheia’s revenge against Kronos, tricking him into regurgitating his children. This leads to the fall of Kronos and the reign of Zeus as king of gods. The children of Kronos and Rheia became the Olympians- six of the twelve gods that reside on Mount Olympos. These six gods are “Hestia and Demeter and gold-sandalled Hera, strong pitiless Hades, the underworld lord, the booming Earth-shaker, Poseidon, and finally Zeus, a wise god, our Father in heaven under whose thunder the wide world trembles”.

Following Gaia’s suggestion, they “pressed broad-browed Zeus, the Olympian, to be their king and rule the Immortals”. Zeus, now in power as king of the gods, married Metis, the Titan goddess of cunning intelligence and wisdom. However, taking the advice of Gaia and Ouranos, Zeus swallows Metis before she could give birth to his child so that “no one but Zeus would hold the title of King among the eternal gods, for it was predestined that very wise children would be born from Metis… a son with an arrogant heart who would one day be king of gods and men”. Gaia ensures that Zeus will forever be king of gods by telling Zeus to swallow Metis, which puts a stop to the cycle of sons overthrowing fathers and makes sure that no one will be able to challenge Zeus’ supremacy.

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