The Protogenoi: the first-born Gods
by: R. Aurelius Orcus
As we look on the family tree of the Gods we notice a group of deities who were born out of Chaos, in the beginning of our universe. But who are these deities and what do they represent? The Protogenoi were the first entities or beings that came into existence whose forms made up the very fabric of our universe and they were immortal. The singular name is Prôtogenos and in plural Prôtogenoi and both mean First Born of Primeval. The Prôtogenoi are group of Gods from which all the other Gods are descend. Although it is believed that they were the first Gods who came out of the Void or Chaos, some sources mentioned a pair of deities who were the parents of these Prôtogenoi. These deites represent various elements of nature like Water (Pontos), Earth (Gaia), Heaven (Ouranos), etc… There even were Prôtogenos of the Seas (Pontos), Islands (Nesoi), Air (Chaos), Mists of Light (Aither), Day (Hemera), Mists of Darkness (Erebos), Procreation (Himeros- Eros), Mountains (Ouranoi), Sea-surface (Thalassa), Ocean (Okeanos), the great stormy Hellpit (Tartaros which was seen as both a deity and the personification), Creation (Thesis) and Fresh Water (Thetis). These are the names who made up the Prôtogenoi.

CHAOS

Chaos is the first of the Protogenoi to emerge at the creation of the universe. Gaia, Tartarus and Eros quickly followed him. The meaning of the name Chaos is void or gap so by this, he represents the lower atmosphere where the air, fog and the mists come from. Although it means void or gap, later authors would associate him with the chaotic mix of elements that existed in the primeval universe but it was never the original meaning. Like the other Gods he too has other names: Poros and Aeros which both mean "passage/ contriver air". Chaos is pronounced {kay'-ahs}. He gave birth to Nyx and Erebos and is the grandfather of Hemera and Aither and al lot of other spirits and Gods. From this deity we got the word chaos which means disorder. Although the gender of Chaos is somewhat inconclusive, there are who say that Chaos is male, others say female and others who say Chaos has no gender because nobody could see the face. Although mentioned by a lot of authors (mostly as reference to the air), Chaos doesn't seem to have any significant myths. Chaos didn't have any cult, temple or shrine.

Offspring:

Chaos is said to be the parent of several Prôtogenoi.
  • Nyx & Erebos ( Theogony)
  • Erebos, Nyx, Hemera, Aither ( Hyginus pref)
  • Himeros ( Halieutica)
  • The Morai ( Quintus Smymaeus)
Sources:
  • The Theoi Project
  • Encyclopedia Mythica
  • EREBOS
Erebos is the God of Darkness. By that I don't mean the evil kind. There were no real "evil" Gods. Evil is something that is a human invention to describe the unpleasant things of life. He's married to Nyx and they have many childeren among whom a few famous ones: Morpheus, Thanatos, Hemera, Aether, Nemesis, etc… In fact most of the childeren Nyx gave birth to are fathered by Erebos.

His thick mists of darkness were said to envelop the edges of the world where the domed sky met the earth and filled the hollow caverns beneath the earth. These dark mists his wife Nyx drew up across the heavens each night to bring darkness to the world and his daughter Hemera (Day) scattered each morning to bring day - the one blocking out the glowing light of Aither (the glowing upper air and son of Erebos) and the other clearing the darkness to let his light shine again upon the earth. Erebos' name was often used to describe the underworld of Hades. Hesiodos mentions Chaos/ Chaos as his parent. Erebos is not only the God of Darkness but also the personification of darkness that surrounded the Underworld or Tartarus but like I said before. It was also used to describe the Underworld. The union between Erebos and Nyx is special because even though Nyx is the Night, the Night is nothing without the Darkness. In my opinion Erebos doesn't just represent the darkness of the night but also of space where again is always night can be said that wherever Darkness can be found, it will unite again with the Night when the Day (Hemera) leaves. Hyginus gives us the names of both the parents as his siblings in his preface of his Latin Mythography. He calls his parents Chaos and Caligine, which is also Darkness. He says from Chaos and Caligine Nox (Nyx- Night), Dies (Day), Erebus, Aether sprang forth.

From Nox (Night) and Erebus: Fatum (Fate), Senectus (Old Age), Mors (Death), Letum (Dissolution), Continentia (Continence), Somnus (Sleep), Somnia (Dreams), Amor – that is Lysimeles, Epiphron, Porphyrion, Epaphus, Discordia (Discord), Miseria (Wretchedness), Petulantia (Wantonness), Nemesis, Euphrosyne, Amicitia (Friendship), Misericordia (Compassion), Styx; the three Parcae (Fates), namely Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos; the Hesperides Aegle, Hesperie and Aerica. One sources calls Erebos Skotos, Gaia Tekmor and Chaos Poros who came after Thetis (Creation). Moon is called Melana and Day Amar that was created to differentiate matter. Both Homeros and Hesiodos use Erebos to describe the Underworld. But his name is never used as another name for the Underworld. Erebos' name was only used at most as another name for Tartarus or the darkness that separated Tartarus from the rest of the Underworld.

Names:

Erebos has another name: Skotos. Both names mean Darkness. In Latin it is Erebus Scotus. Erebos is pronounced {air'-i-buhs}

Offspring:
  1. Aither, Hemera (with Nyx) (Theogony 124)
  2. (2) Moira (Fatum), Geras (Senectus), Thanatos (Mors), Lethe (Letum), ?? (Continentia), Hypnos (Somnus), The Oneiroi (Somnia), Himeros (Amor), Epiphron, Porphyrion, Epaphos, Eris (Discordia), Akhlys (Miseria), ?? (Petulantia), Nemesis, Euphrosyne, Philotes (Amicitia), Eleos (Misericordia), Styx, The Moirai (Parcae), the Hesperides (with Nyx).
Sources:
  • Aristophanes: the Birds
  • Hesiodos, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
  • The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th BC
  • Greek Lyric II Alcman, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th BC
  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th AD
  • Hyginus, Preface - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
  • The Theoi Project
NYX

Nyx is the Goddess of the Night. Her Roman/ Latin name is Nox. She is one of the Prôtogenoi who came into existence out of Chaos. Her union with Erebos (Darkness) makes the night as dark as it is now. She personify the Night. She is the daughter of Chaos (Air) and mother to Aether, Hemera and many spirits. She was depicted as a winged goddess with a star manteld cloth, who rode across the sky in her two-span drawing her dark mists across the sky. Nyx is one of the deities who have a reputation for bringing such pain and misery into the world. But then again it was mostly Hesiodos who made these claims and he has been described as misogynist. The reason why she was seen this way because the Night held many terrors. Several accounts (Hesiodos, Homer) tell us that even Zeus didn't want to defy this Goddess as Hecate and the Moirai. If Nyx had any cults or temples, I'm not sure of but she did have a oracle at Megara.

Nyx in Mythology:

Nyx is the goddess and embodiment of the night. According to Hesiodos in his Theogony (11.116-138), "From Chaos came forth Erebos and black Night Nyx; of Night were born Aether being the bright upper atmosphere and Day Hemera, whom she conceived and bore from union with Erebus her brother". Also from the Theogony (11. 211-225); "And Night bore hateful Doom Moros and black Fate and Death Thanatos, and she bore Sleep Hypnos and the tribe of Dreams. And again the goddess murky Night, though she lay with none, bare Blame and painful Woe, and the Hesperides who guard the rich golden apples and the trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Ocean. Also she bore the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates who were regarded as old women occupied in spinning, Clotho the Spinner of the thread of life and Lachesis the Disposer of Lots, she who allots every man his destiny and Atropos She Who Cannot Be Turned, who finally cuts the thread of life who give men at their birth both evil and good to have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods, and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty. Also deadly Night bore Nemesis (Indignation) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit (Apate) and Friendship and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife."

From that great work we find that Nyx produced a host of offspring. Other sources give Charon who ferried the dead over the rivers of the infernal region as being the son of Erebus and Nyx, although according to the Theogony he was born from Chaos. Also according to Aristophanes, Birds 693 ff, "in the infinite bosom of Erebus, Night with black wings first produced an egg without a seed. From it, in the course of the seasons, Eros was born--the desired, whose back sparkled with golden wings, Eros like swift whirlwinds".

(From the Encyclopedia Mythica by Ron Leadbetter)

Offspring:

Nyx had many childeren including ones who didn't have a father like Eris and Hekate (but Hekate' s parentage is somewhat a debate since one source mentions Perses and Astraia and another Nyx, etc..) I'm going to give the list of childeren with the sources where they are mentioned.
  1. Aither, Hemera (with Erebos) (Theogony 123)
  2. Moros, Ker, Thanatos, Hypnos, The Oneiroi, Momos, Oizys, the Hesperides, the Keres, the Moirai, Nemesis, Apate, Philotes, Geras, Eris (no father) (Theogony 221)
  3. Eris (Works & Days 17)
  4. Hypnos, Thanatos (Iliad 14.231)
  5. Hemera (with Kronos) (Bacchylides Frag 7)
  6. Hekate(Bacchylides Frag 1B)
  7. The Erinyes(The Eumenides 321)
  8. Eos (Quintus is probably idenitifying Eos with Hemera) (Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.549)
  9. The Nemeses (Pausanias 7.5.3)
  10. Moira (Fatum), Geras (Senectus), Thanatos (Mors), LETHE? (Letum), ?? (Continentia), Hypnos (Somnus), The Oneiroi (Somnia), Himeros (Amor), EPIPHRON, PORPHYRION, EPAPHOS, Eris (Discordia), Akhlys (Miseria), ?? (Petulantia), Nemesis, Euphrosyne, Philotes (Amicitia), Eleos (Misericordia), Styx, the Moirai (Parcae), the Hesperides (with Nyx) (Hyginus Pref (Latin in brackets))
Sources:
  • The Theoi Project
GAIA (GAEA / GE)

Gaia has several names: Gaia, Gaea, Gaiê, Gê, Khthon (which all means Earth). Her titles are Mater Pantôn (Mother of All) and Kourotrophe (Nurse of the Young). The Latin spelling of her name is Gaea and her Roman name is Terra/ Tellus. Meter/ Mater (Mother) and Physis (Nature) are her epithets. Gaia was Mother Earth. She was depicted as a buxom, matronly woman, shown half risen from the earth, unable to completely separate herself from her element.

The Earth, in the ancient cosmology, was a disk surrounded by the river Okeanos. It was called the foundation of all, because trees, men, and animals, but even the hills, sea and the solid dome of the sky were supported by it. Gaia was seen as the mother of the Gods, a function that was passed down to Gaia's daughter Rhea and then to Demeter. Kybele was compared to Rhea, Demeter and Gaia and thought to be Rhea. What these Goddesses have in common is not only their agricultural function but also their mother Earth function. Gaia played a big role in the Titanomachia as in the Gigantomachia as the one who started these wars.

She also was the one who provided Kronos or possibly one of her servants with the weapons to castrate his father. One version of this myth tells us that Kronos killed his father, another tells us he only castrated his father. She did this because she couldn't stand that her children were suffering. When Kronos only released the Titans and not the Cyclopes or the Hekatonkheires, she was furious for this. When Zeus began the Titanomachy, Gaia was on his side when he released the Cyclops and the Hekatonkheires. But when Zeus imprisened the Titans she again sought to remove Zeus from Olympos with the help of Typhoeus and the Gigantes.

One version of the birth of Zeus tells us that Rheia sought counsel with her parents and they advised her to give Kronos a rock instead of the baby and to hide it on Krete. She was an early earth goddess and it is written that Gaia was born from Chaos, the great void of emptiness within the universe, and with her came Eros (Himeros). She gave birth to Pontos (the Sea) and Ouranos (the Sky). This was achieved parthenogenetically (without male intervention). Other versions say that Gaia had as siblings Tartarus (the lowest part of the earth, below Hades itself) and Eros, and without a mate, gave birth to Ouranos (Sky), Ourea (Mountains) and Pontos (Sea). Ge was the original Greek earth- and mother-goddess. Because her mythology is difficult to equate with earth goddesses in the other religions, she has been suspected as being pre-Greek in origin. Still, she is a familiar primordial earth goddess married to the primordial sky god.

Symbols:
  • Fruit
  • Cornucopia
Sacrifices:
  • All grains, flowers, or plants, except for beans and aromathic herbs.
Gaia in Mythology

Gaia took, as her husband, Ouranos (Ouranos), who was also her son, and their offspring included the Titans, six sons and six daughters. She gave birth to the Cyclopes and to three monsters that became known as the "Hekatonkheires". The spirits of punishment known as the Erinyes were also offspring of Gaia and Ouranos. The Gigantes, finally, were conceived after Ouranos had been castrated by his son Kronos, and his blood fell to earth from the open wound. To protect her children from her husband, (the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, as he was fearful of their great strength), Gaia hid them all within herself. Another version says that Ouranos was aghast at the sight of his offspring so he hid them away in Tartarus, which is the bowels of the earth. Gaia herself found her offspring uncomfortable and at times painful, when the discomfort became to much to bear she asked her youngest son Kronos to help her. She asked him to castrate Ouranos, thus severing the union between the Earth and Sky, and also to prevent more monstrous offspring. To help Kronos achieve his goal Gaia produced an adamantine sickle to serve as the weapon. Kronos hid until Ouranos came to lay with Gaia and as Ouranos drew near, Kronos struck with the sickle, cutting the genitalia from Ouranos. Blood fell from the severed genitals and came in contact with the earth and from that union was born the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants and the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna ash trees).

After the separation of the Earth from the Sky, Gaia gave birth to other offspring, these being fathered by Pontos. Their names were the sea-god Nereus, Thaumas, Phorkys, Keto and Eurybia. In other versions Gaia had offspring to her brother Tartarus; they were Echidna and Typhon, the latter being an enemy of Zeus. Apollo killed Typhon when he took control of the oracle at Delphi, which Gaia originally provided, and then the "Sibyl" sang the oracle in Gaia's shrine.

Offspring:
  • Ouranos, The Ourea, Pontos (without a mate) (Theogony 126)
  • The Titanes (Okeanos, Koios, Krios, Hyperion, Japetos, Krons), the Titanides (Theia, Rheia, Themis, Mnemosyne, Tethys (with Ouranos) (Theogony 135f, Apollodorus 1.2, Diodorus Siculus 5.66.1)
  • Dione (with Ouranos) (Apollodorus 1.2)
  • The Kyklopes, the Hekatonkheires (with Ouranos) (Theogony 135f, Titanomachia Frag 1, Apollodorus 1.2)
  • The Erinyes, the Gigantes, the Meliai (with the blood of Ouranos) (Theogony 184)
  • The Erinyes, the Gigantes (with the blood of Ouranos) (Apollodorus 1.3, 1.34)
  • Nereus, Thaumas, Phorkys, Keto, Eurybia (with Pontos) (Theogony 232f, Apollodorus 1.10)
  • Typhoeus (with Tartarus) (Theogony 819f, Apollodorus 1.39)
Offspring (Other Gods):
  • Seilenos (Dionysiaca 29.243)
Offspring (Beasts):
  1. Arein (Pausanias 8.25.5)
  2. Python (Metamorphoses 1.438, Hyginus Fab 140)
Offspring (Giants & Men):
  1. TRIPTOLEMOS (with Okeanos) (Apollodorus 1.32)
  2. ERIKHTHONIOS (with Hephaistos) (Iliad, Apollodorus 3.188, Callimachus Hecale Frag 260)
  3. Tityos (Odyssey, Argonautica)
  4. Gegenees (Argonautica 1.901)
  5. Antaios (with Poseidon) (Apollodoros 2.115, Hyginus Fabulae 31)
  6. Kharybdis (with Poseidon) (Other references)
  7. THE HEMIKUNOI (Half-dog men), LIBYS (Libyans), AITHIOPES (Ethiopians), KATOUDAIOI (Underground-folk), PYGMAIOI (Pygmies), MELANOKHROTOI (Black-skins), SKYTHES (Skythians), LAISTRYGONES, HYPERBOREOI (Hyperboreans) (races of men born to her with Poseidon or Epaphos) (Catalogues of Women Frag 40A)
  8. Various other Earth-born Men, Giants, Monsters (Various sources)
Cult and worship:

Along with Helios, the Styx and Ouranos, she was called upon to swear an oath, an oath that couldn't be broken. In the Illiad, there is mention that black lambs were offered to Gaia with Priamos. In the conversation between Medea and her sister in the Argonautica, Gaia and Ouranos were called upon to swear an oath. Agamemnon called upon her when he offered a boar. Gaia was seen as the nurse of the young and mother of the Gods. It is told that she calmed down Zeus' rage when he struck down on Lykaon and his sons with his lightning so that the youngest was spared. She was even responsible for the upbringing of both Erechteus and Kekrops and many other earth born men but than again, Gaia was seen as the mother of Mankind, so she had a special place in every human heart.

Pausanias tells us that at the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus in Athens, there was a temple to Kronos and Rhea with an enclosure for Ge surnamed Olympia, which was another name for Gaia. He also tells us that there was a sanctuary for Ge, Kourotrophe and Demeter Khloe and that by conversing with the priests one can learn all their names. He mentions that at the sanctuary of the Erinyes in Athens, there were images of Plouton (God of the Agricultural wealth), Hermes and Ge who received sacrifices by those who received acquittal on the Areapagos. Pausanias also tells us that at Phyla, Myrrhinos (Attika), Sparta (Lakedaimon), there were altars and sanctuaries to Gaia who was called Megale Thea (Great Goddess) and surnamed Gasepton and called Ge at Sparta. At Olympia, Pausanias tells us that there was a Gaion, sanctuary of Ge which in more ancient days was an oracle. He also informs us that at Agaia, Arkhae there was a Gaion surnamed Eurysternos (Broadbossemed) where the priestess remained chaste, and before her election must not have had intercourse with more than one man. The test applied is drinking bull’s blood. Any woman who may chance not to speak the truth is immediately punished as a result of this test. If several women compete for the priesthood, lots are cast for the honor. He also informs us of an altar at Tegea, Arkadia of Ge.

"[Indian Deriades calls on his comrades to pray to the gods:] ‘Pray to both – stretch out your hands to the Water [of the River-God Hydsapes] and pray to Mother Gaia (Earth), and with truthful lips vow to both sacrifice after victory; at the altar let bullshaped Hydaspes hold a hornstrong bull, and let black Gaia receive a black ram [it was traditional to sacrifice black animals to the Khthonion gods]." –Dionysiaca 29.62. This tell us something about the cult parctices of Gaia. Gaia being the primordial element from which all the gods originated was worshiped throughout Greece, but later she went into decline and was supplanted with other gods. In Roman mythology she was known as Tellus or Terra. Gaia's blessing is life. All things that draw breath and nourishment, and have their homes upon the earth, do so through her. Every plant, animal, bird, fish, tree, rock is special to her. But that kind of love is impersonal. Because she cares for all things, she must consider what is best for the overall balance. And so the lion thins the herd of gazelle out, because otherwise they would eat up all their food and starve to death. From the perspective of the individual gazelle this can seem cruel and uncaring - but when seen within the larger picture, we see that she does nothing needlessly, or overly cruel. Delphi was her primary cult center.

The best way to honor Gaia is to care for the natural world. Clean up pollution, protect wildlife, donate time and money to ecological concerns. Recycle. Buy wholesome foods that are made without pesticides or come without all the extra packaging. Conserve energy. Carpool or walk instead of driving. Be mindful of how your actions will affect the rest of the world. The Roman goddess of the earth, equated with the Greek goddess Gaia (Terra Mater- Mother Earth) and also with the fertility goddess Ceres. Telles ("earth") had a temple on the Forum Pacis, built in 268 BCE. On her festival, the Fordicidia, held on April 15, cows (being with young) were sacrificed. On January 24 - 26 the Sementivae were held in honor of Tellus and Ceres and during these days they were called upon for protection of the seed and the sower. Fama was thought to be her daughter. "Earth". The personified Roman goddess of the earth. She is also a fertility goddess, known as Bona Dea.

Festivals:
  • Earth Day: 21 April (modern)
  • Genesios: 5 Boedromion (September-October)
Sources:
  • Encyclopedia Mythica
  • Theoi Project
CHRONOS

Chronos means Time and is the Protogenos of Time. He is the God of Time. He is described as an old white-haired man with a long grey beard, who turned the wheels of time (perhaps revolving the heavenly constellations). He was the First Protogenos who was born. Through him, we know of time and experience it and its effects can be seen throughout the whole universe as it effects everything. Chronos is seen as the personification of Time itself and in most myths, there is a reference to Him nut not to Him but to time itself. He is often mistaken with the Titan Kronos but to some Kronos himself later overshadowed Chronos so that this mistake was often made. Its through this deity that we know of Father Time.

Names:
  • Aiôn
  • Phanês
Offspring:
  • The Bacchylides mention Nyx and Chronos as the father of Hemera. But in the Dionysiaca it is stated that the 12 Horai are children of Chronos but no mother is mentioned.
Sources:
  • Theoi project
  • Encyclopedia Mythica
  • The Dionysiaca
  • The Bachylides
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