Jason’s Unfaithfulness and Medea’s Revenge
Aeson and Pelias
The Argonauts eventually managed to return to their home. Since many years had passed in the meantime, Jason found his father Aeson at a very old age, and, distraught by the sight,
asked Medea to transfer some of his life to his father. Instead, Medea cut Aeson’s throat and let all of his old blood out of him, subsequently filling his ancient veins with rich elixir.
Aeson woke up forty years younger “in all the vigor of bright youth, no longer lean and sallow.” Stirred by the still unavenged Hera, Pelias’ daughters asked Medea to do the same for their father;
Medea tricked them into repeating the ritual – only this time, she made sure that there was no resurrection to follow. Thus,
Pelias met his end at the hands of his daughters; his son, Acastus, became king and, naturally, exiled Jason and Medea from the island.
Jason’s Unfaithfulness and Medea’s Revenge
The couple went to Corinth, where Jason fell in love with King Creon’s daughter, Creusa (sometimes called Glauce). Medea, infuriated, confronted Jason, but he decided to ignore her.
As revenge, Medea killed Creusa by gifting her a coronet and a poisoned dress whose effects strongly remind one of the Shirt of Nessus: “
when Glauce had put the dress on, she was consumed with fierce fire along with her father, who went to her rescue.” Medea then killed Mermerus and Pheres,
the two sons she had with Jason, either fearing he would kill them as retaliation or wanting to inflict him with the greatest pain imaginable. After doing this atrocious deed,
Medea abandoned Jason, flying to Athens on a serpent-drawn chariot sent by her grandfather, the Sun God Helios.
The Death of Jason
Some say that Jason killed himself in despair soon after. Others are more merciful and claim that, years later, with the help of his friend, Peleus,
the hero did manage to reclaim the throne of Iolcus. However, even in this latter case scenario – having lost the favor of Hera after breaking his vows to Medea
– it seems that Jason cut a lonely and desolate figure, only a shadow of the influential captain he had once been.
Moreover, even if he did become a king, Jason died a death unfitting of a hero: one night, while sleeping under the stern of his once-glorious ship Argo, a rotten beam fell down and crushed him into oblivion
The voyage of Jason and the Argonauts serves as the basis of the only surviving Hellenistic epic, “The Argonautica.” The same story –
with some variations – is also covered at a respectable length in the seventh book of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and in Diodorus Siculus’ “Library of History.” As always, there is a nice summary of it in Apollodorus’ “Library.”
Gaea and Uranus
Meanwhile, Gaea gave birth to Uranus, the Starry Sky. Uranus became Gaea’s husband, surrounding her from all sides.
Together, they produced three sets of children: the three one-eyed Cyclopes, the three Hundred-Handed Hecatoncheires, and the twelve Titans.
The Castration of Uranus
However, Uranus was a cruel husband and an even crueler father. He hated his children and didn’t want to allow them to see the light of day.
So, he imprisoned them into the hidden places of the earth, Gaea’s womb. T
his angered Gaea, and she plotted with her sons against Uranus. She made a harpe, a great adamant sickle, and tried to incite her children to attack Uranus. All were too afraid, except the youngest Titan, Cronus.
Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush for Uranus. As he was preparing to lay with Gaea, Cronus castrated him with the sickle, throwing his severed genitals into the ocean.
It is unclear as to what happened to Uranus afterward; he either died, withdrew from the earth, or exiled himself to Italy.
From the blood that was spilled on the earth due to his castration, emerged the Giants, the Meliae (the Ash Tree Nymphs), and the Erinyes (the Furies).
From the sea foam that was produced when his genitals fell into the ocean, arose Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty.
Creation of Man by Prometheus
Prometheus and Epimetheus, two Titans, were spared imprisonment in Tartarus after the Titanomachy, the War between
the Titans and the Olympians, because they had not fought alongside the other Titans. Instead, they were given the task of creating man.
Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure.Epimetheus gives qualities to creatures
Prometheus assigned Epimetheus with the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man,
Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man.
Prometheus gives fire to man
So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright just like the gods did and to give them fire.
Prometheus tricks Zeus
Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians, who had banished most of his family to Tartarus. So when Zeus decreed that man must sacrifice a portion of each food to the gods,
Prometheus decided to trick Zeus. He created two piles, one with bones wrapped in juicy fat, and another with the finest meat hidden inside a hide.
He then asked Zeus to choose one of the piles; Zeus, unaware, chose the bones and since he had given his word, was forced to accept the bones as his share for future sacrifices.
In his anger over the trick, he took fire away from man. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the sun and brought it back again to man. Zeus was enraged that man again had fire. He decided to inflict a terrible punishment on both man and Prometheus.
Zeus punishes Man
To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty. The gods gave the mortal many gifts of wealth.
He then had Hermes give the mortal a deceptive heart and a lying tongue. This creation was Pandora, the first woman.
A final gift was a jar which Pandora was forbidden to open. Thus, Zeus sent Pandora to Epimetheus, who had decided to live amongst men.
Cronus Devouring His Children
A New Ruler
Cronus became the next ruler. He imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus and set the dragoness Campe to guard them.
He married his sister, the Titaness Rhea, who bore him five children. However, Gaea and Uranus had both prophesied that Cronus would eventually be overthrown by one of his sons.
So much like his father, Cronus maltreated his children, devouring each of them at the time of birth. Rhea was distressed by Cronus’ treatment of her children
and, just like Gaea before him, plotted against her husband. On the advice of her mother, when it was time to give birth to her sixth child, Rhea hid herself on Crete,
leaving the new-born child to be raised by the nymphs of the island. To conceal her act, she wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes
and passed it off as the supposed baby to Cronus, who, unaware of her intentions, swallowed it yet again
Birth of Athena
Zeus came to lust after Metis, and chased her in his direct way. Metis tried to escape, going so far as to change her form many times;
she changed into various creatures such as hawks, fish, and serpents. However, Zeus was both determined and equally proficient at changing form.
He continued his pursuit until she relented.
An oracle of Gaea then prophesied that Metis’ first child would be a girl and that her second child would be a boy that would overthrow
Zeus, similarly to what had happened to his father and grandfather. Zeus took this warning to heart. When he next saw Metis, he initially flattered her and put her at her ease.
Then, with Metis’ guards down, Zeus opened his mouth and swallowed her and her unborn child. This was the end of Metis, but also the beginning of Zeus’ wisdom.
After a time, Zeus developed an unbearable headache, which made him scream out of pain so loudly it could be heard throughout the earth.
The other gods came to see what the problem was. Hermes realized what needed to be done and directed Hephaestus to take a wedge and split open Zeus’s skull.
Out of the skull sprang Athena, fully grown and in a full set of armour. Due to the way of her birth, she became the goddess of intelligence and wisdom.
In the beginning, there was only Chaos, the gaping emptiness. Then, either all by themselves or out of the formless void, sprang forth three more primordial deities:
Gaea (Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld), and Eros (Love). Once Love was there, Gaea and Chaos – two female deities
– were able to procreate and shape everything known and unknown in the universe.
The Children of Chaos and Gaea
Erebus and Nyx
Chaos gave birth to Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Erebus slept with his sister Nyx, and out of this union Aether,
the bright upper air, and Hemera, the Day, emerged. Afterward, feared by everyone but her brother, Night fashioned a family of haunting forces all by herself. Among others,
her children included the hateful Moros (Fate), the black Ker (Doom), Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), Oneiroi (Dreams), Geras (Old Age), Oizus (Pain),
Nemesis (Revenge), Eris (Strife), Apate (Deceit), Philotes (Sexual Pleasure), Momos (Blame), and the Hesperides (the Daughters of the Evening)
The Winning Trick
However, as so many times before, the final victory would not be the result of brute force, but it would happen due to a cunning little trick, possibly devised by Prometheus, who deserted from the Titans’ army beforehand.
Armed with boulders, Hecatoncheires set an ambush for the Titans. At the right time, Zeus retreated his forces, drawing the Titans into the Hecatoncheires’ trap.
The Hundred-Handed ones started raining down hundreds of boulders, with such a fury that the Titans thought the mountains were falling down upon them.
They ran away, and Zeus could finally consider himself the King of the Universe.
Tartarus and Atlas
Zeus exiled the Titans who had fought against him into Tartarus. He made an exception with Atlas, though: being the leader of the opposing force, he was punished to hold the universe on his shoulders.
The Final ChallengeZeus and Typhon
Zeus’ power would be challenged on few occasions afterward. Just after the Titanomachy, his grandmother Gaea,
outraged by the imprisonment of her children, issued forth one last child of her, the monstrous Typhon.
He was so fearsome that most of the gods fled the second they saw him; however, Zeus didn’t hesitate. He faced the monster
and using the power of his lightning bolts, he was able to defeat it. Typhon was subsequently buried under Mount Etna in Sicily.
They say that you can still hear him growling under the volcano. And that someday in the distant future, he will return to challenge Zeus once again.
The Creation Sources
There’s no better place to read about the Creation than Hesiod’s “Theogony,” a book whose title can be literally translated as “The Birth of the Gods.”
Prometheus had warned
Epimetheus not to accept gifts from Zeus, but Pandora’s beauty was too great; so, he let her stay. Eventually,
Pandora’s curiosity about the forbidden jar overwhelmed her; she opened it, releasing all evils upon the earth. Only one thing was left in the jar when Pandora managed to close the lid again – hope.
Zeus punishes Prometheus
Zeus was angry at Prometheus for three things: being tricked on sacrifices, stealing fire for man, and for refusing to tell Zeus which of Zeus’s children would dethrone him. Zeus commanded his servants,
Force and Violence, to seize Prometheus, take him to the Caucasus Mountains, and chain him to a rock with unbreakable, diamond chains.
There, he was tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this torment.
He could tell Zeus who the mother of the child that would dethrone him was. Or meet two conditions: first, that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus.
And second, that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him and Heracles killed the eagle and unbound him.