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Rheia

Ρεια

Rhea

Mother of the Olympians

Rheia

The Titans
Rheia and Kronos
Queen of the Immortals
The Rebirth of the Olympians
War of the Titans
The Abduction of Persephone
Factoids
Text References

Daughter of Heaven and Earth

Rheia is one of the daughters of Gaia [Earth] and Ouranos [Heavens] 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 foresaw 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.

The Titans

The Titans are:

The Titans were the first generation of Immortals to have a human appearance and even though we associate the derivative term Titanic with something very large, the Immortals who preceded the Titans were truly enormous … the Earth, the Heavens, the Mountains and the Seas.

Rheia and Kronos

Rheia's father was also Rheia's stepbrother … the family relationships of the first Immortals are difficult to understand from a modern perspective … Gaia, Rheia's mother, was also the mother of Ouranos, Rheia's father. Ouranos was given sufficient authority by Gaia but he became greedy for power and started encroaching Gaia's dominions. Gaia needed one of her Titan sons to stop Ouranos … Kronos was the only one to come to his mother's aid … he mutilated Ouranos.

Kronos was the youngest of the Titans but his attack on Ouranos made him the unchallenged leader of the Titans. One of his first acts was to marry Rheia. Gaia and Ouranos informed Ouranos that his reign would end when one of his sons defeated him and became the ruling Immortal. Kronos thought that he could alter the inevitable by consuming his children as soon as they were born … to do that, he simply swallowed the children as fast as Rheia could give birth.

This strategy worked well for Kronos but the whole situation was unacceptable to Rheia … she consulted Gaia and was told that she could deceive Kronos if she was very clever … when it came time for Rheia to give birth to her sixth child, she concealed the baby and wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes … she gave the stone to Kronos and he swallowed it down without noticing that it was not a child … the un-swallowed baby was named Zeus.

With the further assistance of her mother Gaia, Rheia took the newborn baby to the island of Crete and gave it to a group of mysterious deities called the Kouretes (Curetes). The Kouretes were noted for their militaristic natures and not the type you would expect to be given the duties of caring for an infant … the Kouretes in turn gave the infant Zeus to the Nymphs of Mount Ida to be nurtured.

When Zeus cried or made other childlike noises, the Kouretes would drown out the commotion by dancing, chanting and clashing their weapons on their shields … their objective was to keep Kronos from hearing Zeus … they succeeded very well … Kronos did not suspect that an immortal child was being reared on Crete and he certainly didn't suspect that there was a child growing to manhood who would eventually confront him and challenge his authority.

Queen of the Immortals

As Zeus was maturing on Crete, Rheia and Kronos established their residence on Mount Olympos (Olympus) … the previous Immortals to occupy Olympos were forcibly evicted … Kronos was now king of the Immortals and Rheia was queen.

After the birth of Zeus, Rheia and Kronos had no more children but Kronos did have at least one affair that resulted in a child. Kronos became infatuated with a young goddess named Philyra … she was the daughter of the Titans Okeanos and Tethys … Philyra was Kronos's niece.

Kronos found Philyra on an island in the Euxine [Black Sea] … while Kronos and Philyra were making love, Rheia came upon the scene … Kronos, in an effort to disguise his identity, transformed himself into a horse … Philyra was impregnated while Kronos was in the horse-guise … the child was named Cheiron (Chiron) … he had the physical appearance of a Centaur, i.e. the body of a horse with the torso and head of a man … he matured into one of the most noble and intelligent beings of all time.

Whether Rheia was immediately fooled by Kronos's imaginative deception or not is a matter for debate but there can be little doubt that she eventually found out and came to accept it as another example of the sort of god "devious, devising" Kronos was and always will be.

The Rebirth of the Olympians

The five children that Kronos swallowed were named Demeter, Hades, Histia (Hestia), Hera and Poseidon … after being swallowed, they grew and matured in a "normal" fashion but were unable to extricate themselves from their father's infinite interior. As Zeus grew older there was little doubt that he would eventually confront Kronos and dethrone him … the only question was when and how the prophecy of Gaia and Ouranos would be fulfilled.

When the proper time came, Zeus set out to confront Kronos … he ambushed his father and caught him unawares … Zeus kicked Kronos in the stomach with such violence that the elder god vomited up the stone and the five children … the stone came out first and Histia last … Histia was the first to be swallowed and the last to be disgorged … she is therefore the oldest and the youngest of the swallowed children.

War of the Titans

With all of Rheia's children free, Kronos was in a situation that he had hoped to avoid … he knew that his authority was in jeopardy because the young gods and goddesses were anxious to establish their dominions on earth … they were powerful and motivated. Zeus was the youngest of the new Immortals but he was soon recognized as the Father of Gods and Men.

Kronos rallied his Titan brothers and prepared for an all out war with his children … the War of the Titans soon began … the role the female Titans played in the war is not known but it's assumed that the males were the primary players. The war lasted ten years … the Titans were finally bested and relegated to the Underworld for several ages of mortal men.

Zeus and his siblings took control of Mount Olympos … Kronos was in the Underworld and even though Rheia was not to blame for Kronos's indulgences, she was not included as one of the new Olympian Immortals … she was respected by her children but she was never again accorded the honor and authority she once had wielded.

The Abduction of Persephone

The new Olympians divided the various domains of earth between themselves … Zeus took the skies … Poseidon took the seas … Hades took the Underworld … the female Olympians were given subdivisions of the world. All was going well until Hades became desirous of the daughter of his sister Demeter … Persephone was her name … Kore … the Maid … she was a treasure.

Hades asked Zeus if he could take the young goddess as his wife and Zeus nodded his head in approval. Hades did not ask Demeter's permission or pursue the accepted rites of courtship … he abducted Persephone in such a way that only Helios [Sun] saw the deed … to all the other Immortals, Persephone simply disappeared from the face of the earth.

When Helios finally told Demeter what had happened to Persephone, she was beyond grief stricken … she was beyond anger. In her capacity as the goddess of the Harvest, Demeter was responsible for the crops that fed the mortal inhabitants of the earth … without the harvest, there would be no mortals … without the mortals, there would be no sacrifices or rituals honoring the Immortals.

Demeter was so distraught she assumed the guise of an old woman and became a menial servant to the family of the king of Eleusis … she no longer blessed the crops and refused to participate in the affairs of the Immortals. Zeus sent a seemingly endless procession of gods and goddesses to try and persuade Demeter to put aside her anger … each and every attempt failed. Finally, Zeus sent Rheia to Demeter.

Rheia spoke kindly to her daughter and explained that there was no way to undo what had already been done … Persephone was the bride of Hades and Zeus had approved the union … no one, mortal or immortal, could change that fact … Demeter would have to share Persephone with the lord of the Dead. Rheia advised Demeter to return to Mount Olympos and assume her duties as the goddess of the Harvest. Demeter relented and was finally reunited with Persephone.

Factoids

The Birth of Apollon - Apollon was Zeus's favorite son and when Leto was in labor, a select group of goddesses were present on the island of Delos … Rheia was one of those goddesses.

Temple - The traveler/historian Pausanias saw a temple of Kronos and Rheia in Athens that was in existence at the time of the Deluge of Deukalion (Deucalion), i.e. 11000 BCE.

The Birth of Poseidon - The Arkadians (Arcadians) believed that Poseidon was not swallowed by Kronos and escaped that fate with the help of Rheia. The Arkadians believed that when Poseidon was born, Rheia concealed him amongst a flock of lambs … she told Kronos that she had given birth to a horse and gave him a foal to swallow instead of the child.

The Passage of Rheia - In eastern Sicily near Mount Aetna, around the steep cliffs of the Helorus River is a place known as The Passage of Rheia.

Mount Alesium - In Arkadia (Arcadia) near Mantineia is Mount Alesium … so named for the wanderings of Rheia … the place is noted for the Grove of Demeter.

Epidarus, Lykaeus and Alesium

Mount Lykaeus - The people around Mount Lykaeus (Lycaeus) told the traveler/historian Pausanias that Mount Lykaeus was the place where Rheia gave Kronos the stone instead of the infant Zeus … on the summit of the mountain was Rheia's Cave … entry to the cave was restricted to Rheia's priestesses only.

Hopladamus - Near Epidaurus is a hill under which is buried the bones of the Giant Hopladamus … he was honored by the Arkadians (Arcadians) because he mustered allies to defend Rheia if Kronos tried to punish her for hiding Zeus from him.

Lymax River - The Lymax River near Phigalia is where the Arkadians (Arcadians) say that the Nymphs of the river cleansed Rheia after she gave birth to Zeus … the river got its name from the Greek word λυματα meaning refuse.

Petrachus - Beyond the city of Patrae is a crag called Petrachus … some Greeks believed that this was the place where Rheia gave Kronos the stone instead of the infant Zeus … at one time there was a small image of Zeus on the summit of the mountain.

Rheia - Pandora - The Egyptians believed that Rheia was indeed the daughter of Gaia [Earth] and Ouranos [Heavens] but they also called Rheia by the name Pandora, implying that she was an Immortal as well as the first mortal woman.

Rheia is often confused with the Roman goddess, Ops.

Rheia and Kronos

Rheia substitutes a stone for the infant Zeus to fool Kronos

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