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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 and Kronos

Rheia substitutes a stone for the infant Zeus to fool Kronos

Rheia in The Iliad

(listed by book and line from four different translations)

Richmond Lattimore

Loeb Classical Library

Robert Fagles

Robert Fitzgerald

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Other Text References


Hymn to Demeter

Hymn to Delian Apollon III

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