Titans: Wikis


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In Greek mythology, the Titans (Greek: Τιτάν - Ti-tan; plural: Τιτᾶνες - Ti-tânes), were a race of 12 powerful deities, sons and daughters of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age. The males were Atlas, Oceanus, Hyperion, Coeus, Cronus, Crius and Iapetus and the females were Mnemosyne, Tethys, Theia, Phoebe, Rhea and Themis . Their role as Elder Gods was overthrown by a race of younger gods, the Olympians, in the Titanomachy ("Battle with the Titans") which effected a mythological paradigm shift that the Greeks may have borrowed from the Ancient Near East.[1]



Greeks of the classical age knew of several poems about the war between the gods and many of the Titans, the Titanomachy ("War of the Titans"). The dominant one, and the only one that has survived, was in the Theogony attributed to Hesiod. A lost epic Titanomachy attributed to the blind Thracian bard Thamyris, himself, was mentioned in passing in an essay On Music that was once attributed to Plutarch. The Titans also played a prominent role in the poems attributed to Orpheus. Although only scraps of the Orphic narratives survive, they show interesting differences with the Hesiodic tradition.

These Greek myths of the Titanomachy fall into a class of similar myths of a War in Heaven throughout Europe and the Near East, where one generation or group of gods largely opposes the dominant one. Sometimes the Elder Gods are supplanted. Sometimes the rebels lose, and are either cast out of power entirely or incorporated into the pantheon. Other examples might include the wars of the Æsir with the Vanir and Jotuns in Scandinavian mythology, the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, the Hittite "Kingship in Heaven" narrative, the obscure generational conflict in Ugaritic fragments, and the rebellion of Lucifer in Christian mythology.

In Orphic sources

Hesiod is not, however, the last word on the Titans. Surviving fragments of Orphic poetry in particular preserve some variations on the myth.

In one Orphic text, Zeus does not simply set upon his father violently. Instead, Rhea spreads out a banquet for Cronus, so that he becomes drunk upon fermented honey. Rather than being consigned to Tartarus, Cronus is dragged — still drunk — to the cave of Nyx (Night), where he continues to dream throughout eternity.

Rhea, Cronus' wife, one of the Titans

Another myth concerning the Titans that is not in Hesiod revolves around Dionysus. At some point in his reign, Zeus decides to give up the throne in favor of the infant Dionysus, who like the infant Zeus is guarded by the Kouretes. The Titans decide to slay the child and claim the throne for themselves; they paint their faces white with gypsum, distract Dionysus with toys, then dismember him and boil and roast his limbs. Zeus, enraged, slays the Titans with his thunderbolt; Athena preserves the heart in a gypsum doll, out of which a new Dionysus is made. This story is told by the poets Callimachus and Nonnus, who call this Dionysus "Zagreus", and in a number of Orphic texts, which do not.

One iteration of this story, that of the Late Antique NeoPlationist philosopher Olympiodorus, recounted in his commentary of Plato's Phaedrus,[2] affirms that humanity sprang up out of the fatty smoke of the burning Titan corpses; some scholars consider that Olympiodorus's report, the only surviving expression of this mythic connection, embodied a tradition that dated to the Bronze Age, while Radcliffe Edmonds has suggested an element of innovative allegorized improvisation to suit Olympiodorus's purpose.[3] Other early writers imply that humanity was born out of the blood shed by the Titans in their war against Zeus.

Pindar, Plato and Oppian refer offhandedly to man's "Titanic nature". Whether this refers to a sort of "original sin" rooted in the murder of Dionysus is hotly debated by scholars.[citation needed]

The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn by Giorgio Vasari, many Titans.

In the 20th century

Some scholars of the past century or so, most eloquently Jane Ellen Harrison, have argued that an initiatory or shamanic ritual underlies the myth of Dionysus's dismemberment and cannibalism by the Titans.

She also points out that the word "Titan" comes from the Greek τιτανος, signifying white earth, clay or gypsum, and that the Titans were "white clay men", or men covered by white clay or gypsum dust in their rituals. Other scholars believe the word to be related to the Greek verb τέμνω (to stretch), a view which Hesiod himself appears to share: "But their father Ouranos, who himself begot them, bitterly gave to them to those others, his sons, the name of Titans, the Stretchers, for they stretched out their power outrageously." (Hesiod, Theogony, 207-210).[4]

The scholar M.L. West also points this out in relation to shamanistic initiatory rites of early Greek religious practices.[5]

The element titanium is named for the titans.

Out of confusion with the Gigantes, various large things have been named after the Titans, for their "titanic" size, for example the RMS Titanic or the giant predatory bird Titanis walleri.

In the Disney animated film Hercules there are but four Titans, each embodying one of the four classical elements. They terrorize the earth until Zeus imprisons them. These Titans bore no silimiarites to their mythological counterparts.

In the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, the Kraken, actually an entity from Norse mythology, is presented as "the last Titan".

In the video game series, God of War, a series of games based on Greek Mythology, many of the Titans are represented, mainly Gaia, Cronos, and Atlas. They attempt to reignite the Great War between the Titans and the Olympians with the help of a Spartan named Kratos, who became the God of War after killing Ares and then was stripped of his powers by Zeus who also kills him (although he escapes the Underworld) in fear that Kratos would overthrow Zeus like Zeus had done to Cronos because it was then revealed that Zeus was Kratos' father. In the end, Kratos kills most of the Olympians and Titans ending with the death of Zeus as well as him killing himself, although it is uncertain if Kratos is truly dead.


  1. ^ See Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Harvard University Press) 1992:94f, 125-27.
  2. ^ Olympiodorus, In Plat. Phaededr. I.3-6.
  3. ^ M.L. West, The Orphic Poems (Oxford, 1983); Albert Bernabé, "La toile de Pénélope: a-t-il existé un mythe orphique sur Dionysos et les Titans?", Revue de l'histoire des religions (2002:401-33), noted by Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, "A Curious concoction: tradition and innovation in Olympiodorus' creation of mankind".
  4. ^ Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis, p. 16ff. "The Titans then, the white-clay-men, are real men dressed up as bogies to perform initiation rites. It is only later when their meaning is forgotten that they are explained as Titanes, mythological giants."[1]
  5. ^ West, The Orphic Poems 1983.


External links

See also

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TITANS (Gr. Tcraves), in Greek mythology, the children of Uranus and Gaea. According to Hesiod (Theog. 133), the male Titans were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus; the female, Thea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys, to whom Apollodorus adds Dione. At the instigation of Gaea they rebelled against their father, who had shut them up in the bowels of the earth, and set up as ruler their youngest brother, Cronus, who in turn was dethroned by his son Zeus. A struggle then ensued between Zeus and Cronus, in which the Titans took different sides. The opponents of Zeus were finally defeated, and imprisoned in Tartarus (Theog. 153-210, 617 sqq.). The rebellious Titans are the representatives of the wild, disorderly forces of nature, who are defeated by the Olympian deities, who stand for law and order. The name Titans is usually explained as "avengers," referring to the vengeance taken by Cronus on his father Uranus, but A. Dieterich (Rheinisches Museum, 1893, xlviii., and J. E. Harrison (Prolegomena to Greek Religion) connect it with riiavos (gypsum).

According to Harpocration (s.v. 'AlroµarTcov), the Titans, when they mutilated Dionysus' Zagreus (see D10NYsus), besmeared themselves with gypsum to conceal their identity, as Artemis daubed her face with mud to escape the rivergod Alpheus. The custom was practised at Bacchic and purificatory rites (Demosthenes, De corona, p. 313) as among savage tribes at the present day. The Titan story is probably an attempt to explain the fact that the Orphic worshippers, when about to tear the sacred animal, daubed themselves with gypsum. L. Weniger, in an article "Feralis exercitus" in Archie filr Religionsgeschichte (May 1906, February and March 1907), while regarding the "white colouring" as an original feature, does not accept the derivation of T travES from TtTavos. According to him, Zagreus is the divine hunter, in turn pursued and slain by others mightier than himself, the "snow-clad" (white) giants dwelling on Parnassus. These Titans, whose original is to be found in Pentheus and Lycurgus (for whom see DioNYsus), had nothing to do with the Titans of Hesiod's Theogony. The whole has reference to the winter festival of Dionysus, when the god arrived with his Thyiades (the wind spirits) on the heights of Parnassus, there to be murdered by the Titans, to be buried and come to life again.

The standard work on the subject is M. Mayer, Die Giganten and Titanen in der antiken Sage and Kunst (1887).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also titans, and titáns




  1. Plural form of Titan.


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