Who was Gaia?
Gaia was one of the primeval gods who was born out of Chaos, a careless deity who ruled over confusion in the void of emptiness. Born out of Chaos, Gaia became one of the first of the Immortals. These first primeval gods or deities were inseparable from their native elements but, unlike Chaos, had genders assigned to them and were described as a race of giants. Gaia was a female deity who created Uranus (Heaven). The goddess Gaia was worshipped as the great all-nourishing earth mother. She was universally revered among the ancient Greeks and there was scarcely a city in Greece which did not contain a temple erected in her honor. Gaia was held in such veneration that her name was always invoked whenever the later gods took a solemn oath or asked for assistance.
Gaia - The Earth Goddesses
In ancient Greek mythology there are three great earth-goddesses Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter.
- Gaia represents the earth as a whole, with its subterranean forces
- Rhea represents the productive power that caused vegetation to grow, sustaining men and animals
- Demeter, by presiding over agriculture, introduced a knowledge of agriculture, putting an end to primitive, nomadic lifestyles leading men civilisation
Rhea and Gaia, like other ancient divinities, lost their importance as ruling deities and earth goddesses.
Gaia (Roman Counterpart was Terra)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek gods and goddesses, such as Gaia, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Roman counterpart of Gaia was Terra, Terra Mater or Tellus.
Gaia and the Ancient Greek Gods
According to mythology about Gaia and the Ancient Greek gods and goddesses consisted of three major dynasties from different generations:
- The First generation of Ancient Greek Gods were the Primeval deities
- The Primordial, or Primeval, gods were those that existed at or from the beginning of time and resided within the region of the universe known as the Elemental Chaos
- The Second generation of Ancient Greek Gods were the Titans
- The Third generation of Ancient Greek Gods were the famous Olympians
Each generation, or dynasty, of the Ancient Greek Gods overthrew the previous generation.
Gaia and Pontus
Gaia is most famous as the mother of the Titans but she also took her brothers Tartarus and Pontus as her consorts. The union between Gaia and her brother Pontus, the great god of the sea produced the ancient sea gods. The names of the children of Pontus and Gaia were Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.
Gaia and Tartarus
Gaia was also the consort of another of her brothers, the primeval god Tartarus, the ruler of the dark abyss, below the Underground, which also became to be called Tartarus, after this first god. The result of this union was Typhon who was known as the "Father of all monsters". His wife was Echidna, half woman half snake, who was called the "Mother of All Monsters." . The union between Typhon and Echidna produced Cerberus, the three-headed dog which guarded the gates of Hades, the Hydra, the Chimera and the Caucasian Eagle.
Gaia in Greek Mythology - Mother of the Titans
Uranus was a primordial deity, the god of the heavens, and the first son of Gaia, whom he married. The union between Gaia and Uranus produced 12 gigantic children called the Titans. The Titans was the name given to their six sons (Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus) and the Titanides which was the name given to the six daughters of Uranus and Gaia (Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys). Gaia and Uranus overthrew the 'elder gods' and Uranus adopted the role of the ruler of the gods.
Gaia and the Titans
Uranus and Gaia produced another 3 giant sons, the Cyclopes and three more sons called the Centimani (Hundred-Handed Ones) who were giants of incredible strength and ferocity. Uranus was frightened of his gigantic children and in order to prevent them taking his power he hurled them down into a dark abyss called Tartarus, where he kept this generation of the ancient Greek gods in chains. Gaia pleaded with Uranus to release her children but Uranus refused.
Gaia and the Rebellion of the Titans against Uranus
Gaia hated the treatment that her 12 children had received at the hands of Uranus. She convinced her children to rebel against Uranus and take his throne. Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, defeated his father and bound him in chains. The Gigantes were a tribe of 100 giants who were the other children of Gaia. The Gigantes, or giants, were born of the blood that spilled onto Gaia when Cronus castrated his father Uranus during their struggle for power. Cronus took possession of the vacant throne, and the Titans became the second dynasty of the Ancient Greek Gods. The Titan males joined with their sisters to produce children and the next generation of gods. Gaia abdicated her position in favour of her daughter Rhea.
The Titans, ruled by Cronus, enjoyed their supreme power. The trouble began when Rhea, the wife of Cronus, produced children. The names of the children were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. Cronus took steps to ensure that his children would not rebel. But his plans failed when his wife Rhea tricked him allowing Zeus to start another rebellion. The rebellion resulted in a 10 year conflict with the older gods called the Battle of the Titans - the Titanomachy. The younger generation of Titans were victorious and led by Zeus the third generation of Ancient Greek gods were established. Their base was on Mount Olympus, the third and final dynasty of Ancient Greek gods were called the Olympians.
Gaia and the Battle of the Giants - The Gigantomachy
Gaia continued to meddle and encouraged her youngest sons, the Gigantes (Giants), to rebel against Zeus and the Olympians. The Gigantes were angry with Zeus because he had established laws that they refused to obey. She encouraged the Gigantes to rebel against the Olympians and at her instigation of Gaia they made war on the Olympian gods. In Greek mythology the war would be referred to as the Battle of the Giants or the Gigantomachy. The Olympian gods won a great victory over the monstrous Gigantes (Giants) and Gaia was defeated. According to mythology Gaia retired to a cavern in the bowels of the earth, where she sits, slumbering, moaning, and nodding for ever and ever.