The Coming of the Olympian Gods

Amid this welter of creation, Cronus forced himself incessantly on his sister Rhea. She bore five children – three daughters (Hestia, Demeter and Hera) and two sons (Haides and Poseidon). But as soon as each was born, Cronus ate them For it was prophesied that his own son would overthrow him Advised by her parents Ouranus and Gaia, Rhea, pregnant for a sixth time, fled to Crete. Here on a mountain top (identified in antiquity with both Mount Ida and Mount Dicte) she bore a son and hid him in a deep cave, around whose mouth she set Curetes, armoured youths, to mask the baby’s cries by clashing spears against their shields. Then she wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and presented it to Cronus as his child. Without a glance, he gulped it down.

The Coming of the Olympian Gods Photo Gallery

Gods quickly grow to adulthood, so it was not long before the boy left Crete and came disguised into his father’s court to serve as cupbearer. With cunning guile he made the old god violently drunk. Retching, Cronus vomited first the swaddled stone, then each of his five (mercifully undigested) children. Only now did he realize the truth. Even he could not trick fate. His sixth child – Zeus – had come to topple him.

The gods (with Themis in her chariot drawn by lions) fight the giants on the north frieze of the late sixth-early fifth-century

BC Siphnian Treasury, Delphi.

Battle was joined. On Cronus’ side were the Titans, with Atlas as their general. Against them stood Zeus, his five siblings and the Cyclopes, whom Cronus had imprisoned deep in Tartarus, but Zeus had since set free. Only after ten years did Zeus prevail. Most of the Titans were consigned to Tartarus, though some say Cronus, pardoned, was allowed to rule the blessed dead in the Elysian Fields.

But the Titans had powerful cousins – twenty-four Earth-born Giants – and in time they sought vengeance. As the Giants tore up mountains, piling Mount Pelion on top of nearby Ossa in an attempt to scale Olympus, another war engulfed the cosmos. It was only with the help of Heracles that the gods defeated their gross rivals. No more attempts were made to overthrow them.

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