Mother to the Olympians
Rheia (Rhea) is the wife of devious Kronos (Cronos) and mother to the Olympians: Zeus, Histia (Hestia), Hades, Poseidon, Hera and Demeter.
Rheia is the daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven) and of the generation of Immortals known as the Titans. Ouranos saw the outrageous behavior of his children and gave them the name Titans. The name can be translated as Strainers or Stretchers and essentially means that Ouranos thought that they would eventually pay a heavy price for their indulgences because they Strained and Stretched the bounds of propriety and abused their seemingly limitless powers. Ouranos was right ... but he too was indulgent and was forced to pay a heavy price for his own greed and arrogance. When he became too oppressive, Gaia decided to subdue him and have him imprisoned in Tartaros, i.e. the Underworld.
Gaia begged her Titan children to slay Ouranos but only Kronos was willing to step forth and do the deed. Gaia created flint and formed a sickle for Kronos to use as a weapon. Kronos attacked Ouranos with the enormous sickle and castrated him. As Kronos was mutilating his father, the overbearing god warned his devious son that he too would be deposed by his own son. After Kronos and Rheia were married, the words of his father haunted him ... in fear that his son would dethrone him, Kronos swallowed Rheia's first five children as they were born, but Rheia tricked Kronos and when the sixth child, Zeus, was born, she substituted a stone for the infant and Kronos swallowed it down, not knowing that his father's prophecy was coming to fruition.
Rheia hid Zeus and raised him in secret until he was manly enough to fulfill his destiny. One day Zeus ambushed Kronos while he out hunting ... he kicked Kronos in the stomach so hard that the aged god vomited up the five divine children he had swallowed. Kronos was punished and sent to the Underworld but Rheia was rewarded for her kindness and held in high regard by all the Olympians.
When Rheia's granddaughter, Persephone, was kidnapped by her son, Hades (lord of the Underworld), Zeus sent the Immortals, one at a time, to reason with the girl's mother, Demeter (goddess of the Harvest) ... each god and goddess was rebuffed ... Demeter would not listen to any plea for mercy even though the people of the earth were in dire need ... famine was imminent ... without the blessings of Demeter the crops could not grow and the mortals would surely starve. Finally Zeus sent Rheia to talk to Demeter and she was able to persuade her daughter to return to Mount Olympos (Olympus) and begin the healing process that would bring life back to the slowly dieing fields and orchards. With her heart softened by Rheia's kind words, Demeter accepted Zeus's compromise ... Persephone would spend a portion of each year with her husband and the rest of the year with her mother ... when Persephone is with Hades the earth is wracked with cold and blustering winds but when she is united with her mother, flowers bloom and the earth gives forth its bounty.
Rheia is often confused with the Roman goddess, Ops.
Rheia substitutes a stone for the infant Zeus to fool Kronos
Rheia in The Iliad
(listed by book and line from four different translations)
- 14.203 - Hera tells Aphrodite (goddess of Love) that she is going to the ends of the earth to visit Okeanos and Tethys who brought her up kindly, and cared for her and took her from Rheia when Zeus drove Kronos underneath the earth and the barren water
- 15.187 - When Iris tells Poseidon (lord of the Sea) that Zeus has commanded him to withdraw from the fighting at Troy, he declares that he is the equal of Zeus because he, Zeus and Hades, lord of the dead men, were all born to Rheia and Kronos and divided the world between themselves by drawing lots
Loeb Classical Library
- 14.203 - Hera tells Aphrodite (goddess of Love) that she is going to the limits of the all-nurturing earth to visit Oceanus and mother Tethys who lovingly nursed and cherished her when they had taken her Rhea, when Zeus thrust Cronos down to live beneath the earth and the unresting sea
- 15.187 - When Iris tells Poseidon (lord of the Sea) that Zeus has commanded him to withdraw from the fighting at Troy, he declares that he is the equal of Zeus because he, Zeus and Hades, who is lord of the dead below, were all born to Rhea and Cronos and divided the world between themselves by drawing lots
- 14.246 - Hera tells Aphrodite (goddess of Love) that she is going off to the ends of the fruitful, teeming earth to visit Ocean and Mother Tethys who nourished her in their halls and reared her well and received her from Rhea when Zeus drove Cronus under the earth and the barren salt sea
- 15.224 - When Iris tells Poseidon (lord of the Sea) that Zeus has commanded him to withdraw from the fighting at Troy, he declares that he is the equal of Zeus because he, Zeus and Hades, lord of the dead beneath the earth, were all born to Rhea and Cronus and divided the world between themselves by drawing lots
- 14.230 - Hera tells Aphrodite (goddess of Love) that she on her way to kind Earth's bourne to see Okeanos and Mother Tethys who nourished her in their great hall, their gift from Rhea, when Lord Zeus put Kronos down, deep under the earth and sea
- 15.218 - When Iris tells Poseidon (lord of the Sea) that Zeus has commanded him to withdraw from the fighting at Troy, he declares that he is the equal of Zeus because he, Zeus and the lord of those below (Hades), were all sons of Kronos whom Rhea bore and the three of them divided the world between themselves by drawing lots
Other Text References
- line 135 - But afterwards she (Gaia) lay with Ouranos (the Heavens) and bare deep-swirling Okeanos (Ocean), Koios (Coeus) and Krios (Crius) and Hyperion and Iapetos (Iapetus), Theia and Rheia , Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoibe (Phoebe) and lovely Tethys.
- line 453 - Rheia bare to Kronos (Cronos): Histia (Hestia), Demeter, gold-shod Hera, strong Hades, the Earth-Shaker (Poseidon) and Zeus.
- line 625 - Following the advice of Gaia (Earth), Zeus and the other deathless children of rich-haired Rheia and Kronos (Cronos) freed the giants Obriareos (Obriareus or Briareos), Kottos (Cottos) and Gyes to help fight the Titans.
Hymn to Demeter
- line 442 - Zeus sent rich-haired Rheia (Rhea) as a messenger to dark-cloaked Demeter with the promise that her daughter Persephone would spend only one third of the year in darkness and gloom (with Hades) but she would spend the rest of the year with her mother
- line 470 - Demeter did not refuse the message which of Rheia (Rhea) brought from Zeus and the land became fruitful again
Hymn to Delian Apollon III
- line 93 - Rheia (Rhea) was one of the goddesses who attended the birth of Apollon on the island of Delos