THE BEGINNING OF THINGS
Orpheus sang on his lyre, about the stories of the gods. Out in the open sea on the first morning of the voyage Orpheus sang to them of the beginning of things.
He sang how at first Earth and Heaven and Sea were all mixed and mingled together. There was neither Light nor Darkness then, but only Dimness. This was Chaos. From Chaos came Night and Erebus. From Night, Aether was born, the Upper Air. From the marriage of Night and Erebus ,Day was born.
Out of Chaos came Earth, and out of Earth came the starry Heaven. From the marriage of Heaven and Earth the Titan gods and goddesses were born —Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus; Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, gold-crowned Phoebe, and lovely Tethys. Then Heaven and Earth had Cronos, the most cunning of all.
Cronos married Rhea, and from Cronos and Rhea were born the gods who were different from the Titan gods.
But Heaven and Earth had other children—Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes. These were giants, each with fifty heads and a hundred arms. Heaven grew fearful when he looked at these giant children, and so he hid them away in the deep places of the Earth.
Cronos hated Heaven, his father. He drove Heaven, his father, and Earth, his mother, far apart. And far apart they stay, for they have never been able to come near each other since. Cronos married Rhea and had children; Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Aidoneus, and Poseidon, and these all were immortal gods. Cronos was fearful that one of his sons would treat him as he had treated Heaven, his father. So when another child was born to him and his wife Rhea he commanded that the child be given to him so that he might swallow him. But Rhea wrapped a great stone in swaddling clothes and gave the stone to Cronos. And Cronos swallowed the stone, thinking to swallow his latest-born child.
That child was Zeus. Earth took Zeus and hid him in a deep cave and those who minded and nursed the child beat upon drums so that his cries might not be heard. His nurse was Adrastia. When he was old enough to play she gave him a ball to play with. The ball was gold, with a dark-blue spiral around it. When the boy Zeus would play with this ball it would make a track across the sky, flaming like a star.
Hyperion the Titan god married Theia the Titan goddess, and their children were Hellos, the bright Sun, and Selene, the clear Moon. Coeus married Phoebe, and their children were Leto, who is kind to gods and men, and Asteria, and Hecate, whom Zeus honored above all. Now the gods who were the children of Cronos and Rhea went up to Mount Olympus, and there they built their shining palaces. But the Titan gods who were born of Heaven and Earth went up to the Mount Othrys, and there they had their thrones.
A war began between the Olympians and the Titan gods of Othrys. Neither side could defeat the other. But Zeus, grown up to be a young man, thought of how he might help the Olympians to overthrow the Titan gods.
He went down into the deep parts of the Earth where the giants Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes had been hidden by their father. Cronos had bound them, weighing them down with chains. But now Zeus released them and the hundred-armed giants in their gratitude gave him the lightning and showed him how to use the thunderbolt.
Zeus wanted the giants to fight against the Titan gods. But although they had mighty strength Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes had no courage in their hearts. Zeus thought of a way to give them this courage. He brought the food and drink of the gods to them, ambrosia and nectar, and when they had eaten and drunk their spirits grew, and they were ready to make war upon the Titan gods.
“Sons of Earth and Heaven,” said Zeus to the hundred-armed giants, “a long time now have the gods of Olympus been fighting against the Titan gods. Do you lend your unconquerable strength to the gods and help them to overthrow the Titans.”
Cottus, the eldest of the giants, answered, “Zeus, because of you we are back again from the murky gloom of the mid Earth and we have escaped from the hard bonds that Cronos bound us with. We are determined to aid you in the war against the Titan gods.”
So the hundred-armed giants said, and so Zeus went and he gathered around him all the descendants of Cronos and Rhea. Cronos himself hid from Zeus. Then the giants, with their fifty heads growing from their shoulders and their hundred hands, went against the Titan gods. Holding huge rocks in their hands the giants attacked the Titan gods.
Then Zeus entered the war. He hurled the lightning; the bolts flew thick and fast from his strong hand, with thunder and lightning and flame. The earth crashed around in burning, the forests crackled with fire, the ocean boiled and hot flames wrapped the earth-born Titans all around. Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes hurled three hundred rocks, one upon another, upon the Titans. When the Titans tried to run the giants seized them and held them for Zeus.
But some of the Titan gods, seeing that they were losing, went over to the side of Zeus. Zeus became friendly with these Titans. But the other Titans he bound in chains and he hurled them down to Tartarus.
As far as Earth is from Heaven so is Tartarus from Earth. An object falling from Heaven to Earth for nine days and nine nights would reach the Earth upon the tenth day. An object falling from Earth for nine nights and nine days would reach Tartarus upon the tenth night. Around Tartarus runs a fence of bronze and Night spreads in a triple line all about it, as a necklace circles the neck. There Zeus imprisoned the Titan gods who had fought against him. They are hidden in the misty gloom, in a dank place, at the ends of the Earth. They may not leave, for Poseidon fixed gates of bronze upon their prison, and a wall runs all round it. There Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes stay, guarding them.
There, too, is the home of Night. Night and Day meet each other at that place, as they pass a gate of bronze. They draw near and they greet one another, but the house never holds them both together, because while one is about to go down into the house, the other is leaving through the door. One holds Light in her hand and the other holds in her arms Sleep.
There the children of dark Night live—Sleep, and Death, his brother. The sun never shines upon these two. Sleep may roam over the wide earth, and the sea, and he is kind to men. But Death is not kind, and whoever he seizes, he holds tight.
There, too, stands the hall of the lord of the Underworld, Aidoneus, the brother of Zeus. Zeus gave him the Underworld when he shared amongst the Olympians the world that Cronos had ruled over. A fearful dog guards the hall of Aidoneus .He is called Cerberus and he has three heads. Cerberus is affectionate to those who live in that hall but anyone who tries to leave, he devours them.
Zeus did not send all the Titans down to Tartarus. Those who had wisdom joined him, and with their help Zeus was able to overcome Cronos. Then Cronos went to live with the friendly Titan gods, while Zeus reigned over Olympus, becoming the ruler of gods and men.
So Orpheus sang, Orpheus who knew the lives and the histories of the gods.