The Protogenoi: the first-born Gods
by: R. Aurelius Orcus
TARTAROS

Tartaros was one of the first beings that emerged out of the creation of the universe, which personified the great stormy pit beneath the earth where the Titans were imprisoned. He was probably conceived of as a great solid dome similar to Ouranos (the Sky) but opposite to him and lying beneath the earth rather than above it.

The name was often used as a synonym of Haides, the Underworld. His name means Hell. The Latin name is Tartarus. His name is pronounced as tahr'-tuh-ruhs. Both Apollodorus and Hesiodos say that Typhoeos is the son of Tartaros and Gaia. Hesiodos also tells us how Typhoeos was conceived with the help of Aphrodite after the defeat of the Gigantes. But Hyginus' Fabulae tell us that Tartaros begot Typhon with Tartara who was described as a creature of immense size and fearful shape, who had a hundred dragonheads springing from his shoulders.

It is clear that Tartaros was not only the personification of Hell but the God of it as well. This is a clear distinction made in the Theogony and later in all other myths where the name Tartaros shows up. About the fight between Zeus and Typhon Hesiodos tells us that in his anger, he threw Typhon into Tartaros. It is said that if an anvil would fall into Tartaros from Heaven, it would take nine nights and days and upon the tenth day it would reach Tartaros. Round it runs a fence of bronze (which was made by Poseidon, and night spreads in triple line all around it like a neck-circlet, while above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea. Walls runs all around it on every side and are the sources and ends of gloomy earth and misty Tartaros and the unfruitful sea and starry heaven, loathsome and dank, which even the gods abhor. It is a great gulf, and if a man were within the gates, he would not reach the floor until a whole year had reached its end, but cruel blast upon blast would carry him this way and that. And this marvel is awful even to the deathless gods.

The four Telchines are mentioned to be children of Nemesis and Tartaros or of Nemesis, the daughter of Tartaros. Apollodorus says that Tartaros was the place were Ouranos threw his children (the Cyclopes and the Titans) and where Gaia told Zeus to find allies that would help him win the Titanomachia. While Hades is the main realm of the dead in Greek mythology, Tartarus also contains a number of characters. In early stories, it is primarily the prison for defeated gods; the Titans were condemned to Tartarus after losing their battle against the Olympian gods, and the Hekatonkheires stood over them as guards at the bronze gates. When Zeus overcomes the monster Typhus, born from Tartarus and Gaia, he hurls it, too, into the same abyss.

However, in later myths Tartarus becomes a place of punishment for sinners. It resembles Hell and is the opposite of Elysium, the afterlife for the blessed. When the hero Aeneas visits the Underworld, he looks into Tartarus and sees the torments inflicted on characters such as the Titans, Tityos, Otus and Ephialtes, and the Lapiths. Rhadymanthos (and, in some versions, his brother Minos and in other version Minos, Rhadymanthos and Aeakas) judge the dead and assign punishment.

Sources:
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
  • Hesiodos, the Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
  • The Theoi Project
  • Harris, Stephen L. and Platzner, Gloria. Classical Mythology: Images and Insights. Sacramento: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1998, pp. 211-2.
  • Rose, H.J. A Handbook of Greek Mythology. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1959.
  • Homer. Odyssey. Book XI, 576 ff.
  • Vergil. The Aeneid. Book VI, 539-627.
HIMEROS

Himeros was the ancient god of desire, and one of the Erotes, who were the ever-youthful winged gods of love or daimones of love. They were seen both as spirits and as Gods. The most famous of these were the frequently depicted triad of gods Eros, Himeros and Pothos. The Erotes were depicted as winged boys usually in the company of Aphrodite or her attendant goddesses. The Theogony mentions no parents but the Halieutica does mention Aphrodite or Chaos. On most occasions Himeros is mentioned as a companion to Aphrodite.

Himeros emerged at the very creation of the universe - a protogenos who represented the driving force of procreation in nature. When the newly born Aphrodite emerged from the sea, Himeros was the first god to welcome her and became her constant companion. Himeros was depicted as a winged youth, like the rest of the Erotes (Love-gods), despite his more ancient lineage. The name Himeros or Himerus as it is written in Latin means desire. Sometimes he is confused with Eros and is sometimes called Himeros-Eros but most of the time this is not done. Himeros is the God from whom we get the desire to something. Like someone's desire to see his or her friend or relative again or to see ones partner again after a long period of time being separated. We can say a lot of things about what we desire or desire in general, but it comes from Himeros. He is not only the personification of desire but the God of desire as well.

Sources:
  • The Theoi Project
  • Encyclopedia Mythica
THE NESOI

The Nesoi are the personifications of the islands themselves. It was believed that they were once mountains but were cast into the sea by Poseidon with his trident. It was believed that each island had its own deity that personified the island and that their parents were Gaia and Ouranos. So Kallimachos tells us of Asteria, mother of Hekate, who fled from Zeus, jumped into the sea and became the island of Delos. I think that the reference to daimon is justified here, that each island had a daimon (spirit) that was the patron/ matron of the island but that the story of Asteria becoming the island of Delos, for example, was added later.

Source:
  • The Theoi Project
THE OUREA

The Ourea were seen as spirits of mountains but very few mountains were personified as spirits. It is said that they were bearded. The Theogony mentioned no father but Gaia as the mother. The names of the Ourea were Kithairon (Cithaeron) and Helikon (Helicon) of Boiotia, Tmolos (Tmolus- it was he who was the judge in a musical contest between Pan and Apollo) and Olympos (Olympus- not the home of the Gods) from Phrygia and Aitna of Sicely( Aetna/ Etna, who gave birth to the Palikoi with hephaestos). A single Ourea was an Ouros and the name Ourea means mountains. Nonnos in his Dionysiaca tells us of the Kikilian mountain called Tauros which brayed a victorious noise after the defeat of Typhon.

Source:
  • The Theoi Project
AITHER

Aithr is the Protogenos of the Bright, Glowing, Upper Air. His name means Light/ Upper Air. His other name is Akmn which means Untiring/ Anvil. There are two different spellings of his name. First the Latin one: Aether, Acmon and second the English: Ether. He is not only its God but also the personification of the upper air as opposed to the gloomy lower air of the Earth. His parents are Nyx and Erebos mentioned in the Theogony but Hyginus mentions Chaos as his parent. His mother Nyx (Night) drew the dark mists of Erebos across the sky beneath him to create night, while his sister Hemera (Day) drew away these mists to reveal his shining glow and bring the day. Night and day were regarded as independent of the sun in the ancient theogonies. He has several offspring but Hyginus seems to confuse him with Ouranos when saying that Aither has many children with Gaia. Hyginus is also our source for telling us that Aither is the father of Ouranos, Gaia and Thalassa with Hemera (his sister). But another source tells us that it is just Ouranos who is his child.

And like Tartaros and Erebos, he too became the personification of his element and is mentioned in this way. In the Orphic hymns, he is mentioned as the soul of the world from which all life emanates. As Akmon, Kallimachos who calls Ouranos Akmonides is called him the father of Ouranos. Eustathius in Alkman tells us that the sons of Ouranos were called Akmonidai.

Source:
  • Hesiodos : The Theogony
  • Hyginus, Preface- Latin Mythography
  • Eustathius- Greek Lyric II Alcman
PONTOS

Pontos or Pontus as it is written in Latin means Sea and is the God of the Sea as its personification. He is said to be the father of most of ancients of Sea Gods. Hesiodos tells us that Gaia brought him into the world with no help from a father but Hyginus says that Pontos' parents were Aither and Gaia. Its also Hesiodos and Apollodorus who say that Eurybia (Sea Goddess whose name means wide-force; the wife of the Titan Krios), Keto (whose name means sea monster and is a sea goddess/ daimone who personified the dangers and terrors of the sea and is married with Phorkys), Thaumas, Nereus and Phorkys are children of Gaia. But Hyginus says with Thalassa, Pontos fathered the fish and with Gaia Thaumas.

In the Titanomachia, it is stated that Pontos is father of Aigaion (Aigaion was an ally of the Titans and after him the Aegean Sea was named - the name itself means Aegean Sea or Goatish Sea) with Gaia and in the Bachylides it is stated that with Gaia he became father of the Telkhines. The Telkhines were magicians who later angered Zeus, who cast them into the depths of the sea or into Tartaros. The name Telkhines means maligners. They were four mysterious magicians who were considered daimones of the sea. Pontos, like most Sea Gods was more likely to be worshipped by seamen and fishers than people who were on the land.

Sources:
  • Hesiodos, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
  • Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th BC
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
  • Hyginus, Preface - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
THESIS

Thesis was the personification of creation, and one of the oldest of the Protogenoi. She was the first being to emerge and set order in the universe as the primeval deities came into being one with one: Chaos, Gaia, Erebos, Nyx and Hemera. She also has another name, Thetis. Both names mean Creation. Alkman is our only source for her: "[First came] Thetis (Creation). After that, ancient Poros [=Chaos] and Tekmor [=Gaia]: Tekmor came into being after Poros .. Thereupon ... called him Poros since the beginning provided all things; for when the matter began to be set in order, a certain Poros came into being as a beginning."

So Alkman represents the matter of all things as confused and unformed. Then he says that one came into being [Thesis] who set all things in order, then that Poros came into being, and that when Poros had passed, Tekmor followed. And Poros is as a beginning, Tekmor like an end. When Thetis (Creation) had come into being, a beginning and end of all things came into being simultaneously, and all things have their nature resembling the matter of bronze, while Thetis has hers resembling that of a craftsman, Poros and Tekmor resembling a beginning and the end. He uses the word ancient for old. "And the third, Skotos [=Erebos]: since neither sun nor moorn had come into being yet, but matter was still undifferentiated." So at the ssame moment there came into being Poros and Tekmor and Skotos. "Amar (Day) [=Hemera] and Melana (Moon) [=Selene] and third, Skotos as far as Marmarugas (= Flashings stars?): days does not mean simply day, but contains the idea of the sun. Previously there was only darkness, and afterwards, when it had been differentiated, light came into being."

Another Thetis is the Sea Goddess who gave birth to the hero Achilles with Peleus. The reason why she was wed to a mortal was for the fear of a son who would become more powerful than the father. This is why Zeus did not sleep with her; he was warned by Prometheus about this prophecy. Another source tells us that it was Themis who made the prophecy. But this Thetis is not the same Thetis as the one whose name means creation. This Thetis is a Nereide, a daughter of Nereus. So these goddesses might be confused with another plus; there is only source for the Goddess Thesis/Thetis and that is one of a Greek Lyric dating back as the 7th century BC.

Source:
  • Greek Lyric II Alcman, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th BC
  • Homeros, Illiad
  • Apollonius Rhodius; Argonautica
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