Theogony by Hesiod.

I'd been looking forward to reading Hesiod's Theogony after recently reading Hyperion by John Keats (1818-19), which was inspired by Hesiod's tale of Hyperion (Ὑπερίων), one of the twelve children of Gaia. Theogony is not simply about Hyperion however, just a small part of it: Theogony (Θεογονία) is a poem describing the genealogies and origin of the gods and goddesses, hence the title. The poem is only 1022 lines, however these are the densest and probably most intimidating 1022 lines I've yet come across!

What follows is more a collection of notes than a review: I thought it would be helpful to make a few lists which I may need to consult in the future.

Hésiode et la Muse 
by Gustave Moreau (1891).
Early in the poem Hesiod writes of how Zeus and the gods and goddesses ordered him "To sing the race of the blessed ones who live / Forever". He goes on,
We start then, with the Muses, who delight
With the mighty mind of father Zeus
Within Olympus...
He describes the Muses song that Hesiod must relay:
... first they celebrate
The august race of first-born gods, whom Earth
Bore to broad Heaven, then their progeny,
Givers of good things. Next they sing of Zeus
The father of gods and men, how high he is
Above the other gods, how great in strength.
Next the Olympian Muses, daughter of Zeus
Who holds the aegis, sing the mighty race
Of Giants, and they please the mind of Zeus.
Hesiod goes on to name the Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus (Ζευς):
  • Cleio (Clio; Κλειώ): muse of history.
  • Euterpe (Eὐτέρπη): muse of poetry.
  • Melpomene (Μελπομένη): muse of singing, muse of tragedy.
  • Thalia (Θάλεια); muse of comedy.
  • Erato (Ἐρατώ): muse of lyrical poetry.
  • Terpsichore (Τερψιχόρη): muse of dance and chorus.
  • Polymnia (Πολυύμνια): muse of sacred poetry and hymn.
  • Urania (Οὐρανία): muse of astronomy.
  • Calliope (Καλλιόπη): muse of epic poetry.
He then pays homage to the daughters and to Zeus, and this introduction is completed with the lines,
Hail, daughters of Zeus! Give me sweet song,
To celebrate the holy race of gods
Who live forever, sons of starry Heaven
And Earth, and gloomy Night, and salty Sea.
Tell how the gods and earth arose at first,
And rivers and boundless swollen sea
And shining stars, and the broad heaven above,
And how the gods divided up their wealth
And how they shared their honours, how they first
Captured Olympus with its many folds.
Tell me these things, Olympian Muses, tell
From the beginning, which first came to be?

First Deities

In the beginning there was Chaos, and from Chaos came:
  • Earth (Gaia)
  • Tartarus (the Underworld)
  • Love ("most beautiful / Of all the deathless gods")
  • Night (Nyx) 
  • Erebos (Darkness)
And then:
  • From Night and Darkness comes Day and Space
  • Earth gave birth to Heaven (or the skies; Uranus), Mountains (Ourea), and the Sea (Pontus)
  • With the Uranus, Gaia gave birth to the twelve Titans:
    • Oceanus
    • Koios
    • Kreius
    • Iapetos
    • Hyperion
    • Theia
    • Rhea
    • Themis
    • Mnemosyne
    • Tethys 
    • Phoebe
    • Kronos (...most terrible of sons / The crooked-scheming Kronos")
  • Again with Uranus, Gaia bore:
    • Cyclopes ("whose hearts / Were insolent")
    • Brontes
    • Steropes
    • Arges ("those who found and gave / The thunder and the lightening-bolt to Zeus")
  • And again with Uranus, Gaia bore:
    • Kottos
    • Gyes
    • Briareus
      • All "insolent children, each with a hundred arms / On his shoulders, darting about, untouchable / And each had fifty heads, standing upon / His shoulders, over the crowded mass of arms / And terrible strength was in their mighty forms".
Uranus hated Kottos, Gyes, and Briareus so he hid them in the Earth so that they would not see light. Gaia however asked the Titans to punish their father for his "wicked crime" and "shameful acts". Kronos replies that he will do his mother's bidding: he castrated Uranus, and from the drops of blood come:
  • The Furies
  • The Giants
  • The Meliae (tree nymphs)
From the genitals themselves, which were thrown into the sea, Aphrodite was born.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (1480s). 
For this Uranus called his sons the Titans (Τῑτᾶνες), which is said to mean 'strained'. Hesiod goes on write,
They strained in insolence, and did a deed
For which they would be punished afterwards.
La Nuit by
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1883).
Hesiod then carries on with the genealogy of Night, who bore (without a mate):
  • Doom (Moros)
  • Ker and Keres (Destiny and Destinies)
  • Death (Thanatos)
  • Sleep (Hypnos)
  • The Tribe of Dreams (Oneiroi)
  • Blame (Momos)
  • Hesperides (Daughters of the Night)
  • Fates (Moirai)
  • Nemesis (Retribution)
  • Deceit (Apate)
  • Love (Philotes)
  • Age (Geris)
  • Distress (Eris), who bore:
    • Work
    • Forgetfulness (Lethe)
    • Famine (Limos)
    • Pain (Ponos)
    • War (Hysmine and Makhai)
    • Murders (the Phonoi)
    • Manslaughters (Androktasia)
    • Quarrels (the Neikea)
    • Lies (Pseudologos)
    • Stories (Logoi)
    • Disputes (Amphilogia)
    • Lawlessness (Dysnomia)
    • Ruin
    • Oath (Horkos)
The Union of Earth and Water by Rubens (1618).
Then Hesiod writes on Pontus (the Sea):
  • Alone, Pontus bears Nereus (The Old Man of the Sea)
  • With Gaia:
    • Thaumas
    • Phorkys
    • Ceto
    • Eurybie
Nereus and Doris (the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, two of the Titans) bear the Nereids - the fifty nymphs of the sea:
Protho, Eukrante, Sao, Amphitrite, Eudore, Thetis, Galene, Glauce, Cymothoe, Speio, Thalia, Pasithea, Erato, Eunike, Melite, Eulimene, Agave, Doto, Proto, Pherousa, Dynamene, Nesaia, Aktaia, Promedeia, Doris, Panope, Galatea, Hippothoe, Hipponoe, Cymodoce, Cymatolege, Cymo, Eione, Halimede, Glauconome, Pontoporeia, Leiagore, Euagore, Authonoe, Lysianassa, Euarne, Psamathe, Menippe, Neso, Eupompe, Themisto, Pronoe, and Nemertes.
Hesiod writes,
... These
Are the fifty daughters of blameless Nereus;
And they, as well, are skilled in perfect works.
Next, Thaumas marries Electra (another daughter of Oceanus and Tethys) and they have:
  • Iris (the Rainbow)
  • The Harpies (Aello and Ocypetes)
Phorkys and Ceto together bear:
  • Graise
  • Pemphredo
  • Enyo
  • The Gorgons
  • Echidna
Hesiod then returns to the Hesperides (daughters of the Night), naming them as -
  • Sthenno
  • Euryale
  • Medusa
Medusa's head was cut off by Perseus, and from the drops of blood came:
  • Chrysaor, who bore with Callirhoe (daughter of Oceanus and Tethys) -
    • Geryon (whom Heracles killed)
  • Pegasus
Hesiod then writes,
She bore another monster, terrible...
Who "She" is is unclear. It could be Callirhoe, Medusa, or Ceto; Dorothea Wender, the translator of my edition, suggests Ceto, with Phorkys. So the genealogy of the two is continued (see above).

He goes on to write about the children of Echidna, the daughter of Ceto and Phorkys and Typho (Typhon; Τυφῶν), son of Gaia and Tartarus (the Underworld):
  • Othos "the dog of Geryon"
  • "Unspeakable Cerberus, who eats raw flesh, / The bronze-voiced hound of Hades, shameless, strong, With fifty heads."
  • The Lernaean Hydra
Following a story of the Hydra and Heracles, Hesiod again writes "She", another ambiguous reference. This, I've read, confused even the ancients: the following children of the "She" (the Hyrdra, or else Echidna) are mentioned:
  • Chimaera, who with her brother Orthos bore:
    • The Sphinx
    • The Nemean Lion 

The Titans

From here Hesiod returns to the Titans, who I'll list once more as a reminder:
Oceanus, Koios, Kreius, Iapetos, Hyperion, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Tethys, Phoebe, and Kronos.
We've already seen some of Oceanus and Tethys' offspring (Doris, Electra, and Callirhoe). Hesiod goes on to name Oceanus and Tethys' children:
Tethys bore whirling Rivers to her mate
Ocean: the Nile, Alpheios, and the deep
Eddying Eridanus, Strymon; then,
Meander, Ister's lovely-flowing stream,
And Phasis, Rhesus, and the silver pools
Of Achelous and Nessus, Rhodius,
Then Haliacmon, Heptaporus, and
Granicus, Asepus, bright Simois,
Peneus, Hermus, gentle Caicus,
Sangarius the great, Parthenius,
Ladon, Euenus, and Aldescus; last,
She bore Scamander, shining holy stream.
And she bore daughters, holy progeny,
Who, with the Rivers and Apollo, lord,
Have charge of young men over all the earth,
For Zeus appointed them to do this work:
Peitho, Admete, and Ianthe; next,
Electra, Doris, Prymno, and divine
Ourania and Hippo, Clymene,
Rhodeia, Callirhoe, Zeuxo; and
Klutie, Iduia and Pasithoe,
Plexaure, Galaxaure and the loved
Dione, Melobosis, Thoe, fair
Polydore, Kerkeis with her lovely shape,
And Pluto with her wide eyes, Pereis,
Ianeira, Akaste, Xanthe and the sweet
Petraie, Menestho, Europe, Metis; next,
Eurynome, Telesto, yellow-robed,
And Chryseus, Asie, loveable
Calypso and Eudore, Tyche, and
Amphiro, and Okuroe and Styx,
Who is the most important of all.
These are the oldest daughters who were born
To Oceanus and Tethys, but there are
Many others besides them, Oceanids,
Three thousand nymphs with shapely ankles, who
Are scattered everywhere, over the earth
And on deep water, glorious goddesses.
There are as many roaring rivers, too,
Children of Ocean, lady Tethys' sons;
It is hard for mortal man to name their names,
But they are known to those who live nearby.
Next of the Titans, Theia and Hyperion, who bear -
  • Helios
  • Selene
  • Eos
Krios joins Eurybie (child of Gaia and Pontus) and together they have -
  • Astraios
  • Pallas
  • Perses
Boreas by John William Waterhouse (1903).
Eos and Astraios bear the winds:
  • Zephyros (west wind)
  • Notos (south wind)
  • Boreas (north wind)
  • Eurus (east wind)
  • Eosphoros (the morning star) and all the other stars.
Next, Pallas, who sleeps with Styx. Together they bear -
  • Victory
  • Glory
  • Power
  • Force
Then Phoebe and Koios:
  • Leto
  • Asterie (married Perses), who bore
    • Hekate
Next Hesiod writes on Rhea and Kronos (who, as a reminder, castrated Uranus). Hesiod writes Rhea was forced to bear children:
  • Hestisa
  • Demeter
  • Hera
  • Hades
  • Poseidon
  • Zeus
However, Kronus swallows his children:
As each child issued from the holy womb
And lay upon its mother's knees, each one
Was seized by mighty Kronus, and gulped down.
He had in mind that no proud son of Heaven
Should hold the royal rank among the gods
Except himself. For he had learned from Earth
And starry Heaven, that his destiny
Was to be overcome, great though he was,
By one of his own sons, and through the plans
Of mighty Zeus.
Only Zeus is not swallowed: Rhea hides him with the help of Gaia and Uranus, and then tricks him into vomiting up his other children. Zeus then prepares to battle against Kronus, however before we get to that part Hesiod returns to his genealogy of the gods:

Klymene, an Oceanid, with Iapetos the Titan bear -
  • Atlas
  • Menoitios
  • Prometheus
  • Epimetheus

Titanomachy (the Battle of the Titans against the Olympians)

The Fall of the Titans by Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1596-98). 
Zeus punishes Klymene and Iapetos' children for challenging him -

  • Atlas is forced to hold up the sky
  • Prometheus is bound up in chains
Pandora by John William Waterhouse
Hesiod goes on to tell the tale of Pandora, the first human woman created by Athena and Hephaestus (children of Zeus); she is to be the curse of men.

The Battle of the Titans is going on, and Hesiod writes that the two sides, the Titans and the Olympians (the challengers) are equally matched until Zeus enlists the help of the Cyclops and the Briareus with their hundred hands and fifty heads the Titans are finally defeated, driven out of Heaven, and sent to Tartarus - the Underworld. Gaia and Tartarus, the first deities, have one final child: Typhoeus -
[a] mighty god, whose hands were strong
And feet untiring. On his shoulders grew
A hundred snaky heads, strange dragon heads
With black tongues darting out. His eyes flashed fire
Beneath the brows upon those heads, and fire
Blazed out from every head when he looked around.
Astounding voices came from those weird heads,
All kinds of voices: sometimes speech which gods
Would understand, and sometimes bellowings,
As of a bull let loose, enraged, and proud,
Sometimes that of a ruthless lion; then,
Sometimes the yelp of puppies, marvellous
To hear: and then sometimes he hissed,
And the tall mountains echoed underneath.
Zeus eventually defeats him however, and he is trapped underneath Mount Etna.


Olympian Genealogy

Having described the battle Hesiod returns to the matter of genealogy; he writes of each of Zeus' wives or lovers and their children.
  • Zeus and Metis (an Oceanid)
    • Athena (as Kronos swallowed his children to avoid being usurped by them, so Zeus swallowed Athena, however she would later be born from his forehead).
  • Zeus and Themis (a Titan)
    • The HoraeEunomia (Order), Dikē (Justice), Eirene (Peace)
    • The Fates: Clotho, Atropos, Lachesis
  • Zeus and Eurynome (daughter of Oceanus and Tethys)
    • The Three Graces: Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Thalia
  • Zeus and Demeter (daughter of Rhea and Kronos)
    • Persephone
  • Zeus and Mnemosyne
    • The Muses: Cleio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Thalia, Erato, Terpsichore, Polymnia, Urania, and Calliope.
  • Zeus and Leto (daughter of Phoebe and Koios)
    • Apollo
    • Artemis
  • Zeus and Hera (daughter of Rhea and Kronos; his final wife)
    • Hebe
    • Ares
    • Eileithuia
  • Hera alone gives birth to Hephaistos
And then:
  • Amphitrite (one of the Nereids) and Poseidon, the brother of Zeus, bear Triton
  • Ares and Cytherea (Aphrodite) bear Terror and Fear. Then, perhaps alone (it isn't quite clear), Aphrodite bears Harmonia (who bore Ino, Semele, Agave, and Autonoe). 
And back to Zeus:
  • Zeus and Semelne
    • Dionysus
  • Zeus and Alcmene
    • Heracles, who married Hebe.
Then Hesiod writes of:
  • Hephaestus, who married Aglaia
  • Dionysus married Ariadne
  • Perseis married Helios → Circe and Aeëtes.
  • Aeëtes married Iduia → Medea.
And finally Hesiod writes of the offspring of mortals and goddesses:
  • Demeter married Iasion → Ploutos
  • Callirhoe married Chrysaor → Gerones
  • Tithonus and Eos → Memnon and Emathion
  • Kephalos and Eos → Phaethon
  • Jason and Medea → Medeius
  • Psamathe and Aeacus → Phocus
  • Thetis and Peleus → Achilles
  • Cytherea and Anchises → Aeneas 
  • Circe and Odysseus → Latinus and Agrius
  • Calypso and Odysseus → Nausithoos and Nausinoos
And the poem ends,
These are the goddesses who lay with men
And bore them children who were like the gods.
Now sing of women, Muses, you sweet-voiced
Olympian daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus:
The poem was either unfinished or lost.

As you can see, this is so very dense and rather complicated: I've had to check on many of these names to see precisely who begat who because Hesiod is not always so clear. But that is about the gist. It is a very rewarding poem, but exceptionally overwhelming. I think it'll be very interesting to re-read when I've read more of the Ancient Greeks.


  1. i'd have to make a wall chart with arrows and groupings so i could keep track of it all. good luck! once more i applaud your persistence!

    1. Thank you! I think a wall chart would be a good idea - that kind of diagram would be a lot more helpful than straight up lists. I don't know if I've got a wall big enough, though ;)

  2. Wow, that is complex! :-) I almost bought this poem yesterday. The used book store had a few translations and I checked them out. Strangely I liked the word-for-word translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis ...... it was beautiful, even for a word-for-word translation. You lose the poetry but with this particular poem, I'm not certain how much it matters. And the other translations were sort of meh. I didn't buy it though. Perhaps next time!

    Thanks for the hard work in compiling the notes! Now I'll have something to refer to!

    1. I couldn't believe how complex it was! 1022 lines and ALL OF THAT! :) It was very helpful to read, though. I was just going to do a basic review but I thought I'd end up regretting it whenever I felt the need to refer back.

      A word for word translation, I dare say, would be good for this poem. I'll be interested to see what you make of it should you end up getting it :)


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