Olympic Legends

The history of the Olympian gods is the dark tale of a troubled family, a story filled with patricide, infanticide and betrayal.

The Beginning

First there was nothing but uncontrolled form and motion. This lasted for aeons until the first god, Chaos, became bored. In an act against his nature, he imposed order on to the void, creating the Earth, the night and the pit of Tartarus. From the Earth rose the goddess Gaia and out of the night emerged the goddess Nyx and they filled the gap between Earth and the blackness with the sky. Out of it came Uranus, and Gaia lay with the sky god. In time she gave birth to the three elder cyclopes, the three hecatonchires, the 100 gigantes and the twelve Titans - Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys and Cronus. Of her children Cronus was the wiliest, youngest and most terrible with a deep hated for his father Uranus.

Chaos, unfathomable even to other gods, showed no interest in ruling the pantheon and so Uranus assumed the mantle of leader. His rule maintained the divine balance, but Uranus's own children posed the biggest threat to the world. Except for his favourites, the twelve Titans, Uranus imprisoned his children in the pits of Tartarus.

Upset by the treatment of her children, Gaia plotted the downfall of her king and husband. She forged a sickle out of nothing but her malice and hated, creating a weapon powerful enough to hurt Uranus. Recruiting Cronus to her cause, Gaia placed the sickle in the young god's hands on condition that he would free her children once he was ruler. Cronus ambushed his father, castrating him to remove his power. Uranus cursed Cronus for his betrayal, predicting that just as he had usurped his father, so would Cronus’ son usurp him.

The Rule of Cronus

Cronus with his eleven sibling Titans formed a new court. This was a golden age with no need for law, and immorality was impossible. Yet Cronus' betrayal of his father was the first violent act between the gods and it sowed the seeds of discord. New gods emerged - Momus (blame), Nemesis (retribution), Apate (deception) and the powerful Eris (strife).

Cronus became haunted by his father's curse and obsessed with defending his crown against real and imagined threats. Despite his promise to his mother he kept many of his siblings - the cyclopes, the hecatonchires and the gigantes - in Tartarus and set the dragon Campe to guard them. The children he fathered with his sister-wife Rhea fared worse and five were swallowed whole by Cronus at birth. Angered and distraught by these acts, Rhea found an ally in Gaia who was also dismayed by Cronus' actions. Gaia smuggled the newborn Zeus to Crete while Rhea tricked Cronus into eating a rock wrapped in swaddling cloth.

The Rise of Zeus

Zeus remained hidden on Crete until he could challenge his father's might. Ambushing his father, Zeus struck a deep wound into Cronus' belly and Zeus' five siblings fell from the bloody gash. Zeus took his siblings to Gaia who arranged for their care and then hid from Cronos's wrath. Slowly, Zeus gathered allies by freeing the hecatonchires, the cyclopes and the gigantes from Tartarus and waiting until his siblings had reached adulthood. At last Zeus declared himself in rebellion against his father and made war upon Cronus and his Titan siblings. The Titanomachy was a brutal and lengthy conflict and laid waste to most of the world.

Victorious after ten years of bitter conflict, Zeus sought to cement his new rule. He imprisoned Cronus and his closest allies deep in the bowels of Tartarus, guarded by the hecatonchires. Exile awaited those Titans who remained neutral or abandoned the figth. Zeus founded his realm on Mount Olympus, starting the age of the Olympians. Dividing up the realms of power, Zeus took control of the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the Underworld. The Earth they returned to their grandmother, Gaia.

The Anger of Gaia

This was not enough to satisfy Gaia, for she desired that all of her children and all their children should be free, even Cronus and the Titans. Gaia called upon the giants to support her and she began the Gigantomachy. Intending to cast down Zeus they assaulted Olympus with a ferocity even the Olympians could not resist. Only when Herakles, the mortal son of Zeus, came to fight by his father’s side did the tide of battle turn. For the first time, a father and son were allies in a struggle for ultimate power, breaking Uranus' curse. The Olympians came down the slopes of Mount Olympus and massacred the giants. The sole surviving giant Aristaios escaped thanks to his transformation into a dung beetle by his mother Gaia.

Such slaughter drove the already angry Gaia into a maddened fury. She descended into the depths of the worlds where she birthed the monsters Typhon and Echidna. Raising these great beasts in secret until their power was great, she sent them against Zeus. At first they were victorious, bringing the king of the gods low but Zeus' son Hermes came to the rescue and together they drove off the monsters.

The Olympic Age

With his rule secured, Zeus now ushered in the Olympic Age. This was an age of prosperity and growth for mortals and gods alike. The mortals benefitted from the many demigods and heroes of divine blood who walked the world performing great deeds and founding cities. As the gods increased in number the Olympic court changed in nature from a council of war to palace of art and culture.

In the early part of the Olympic Age, the gods often interfered with the affairs of mortals. The entire Trojan war was caused by a quarrel between the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite over who was the most beautiful. The constant meddling of the gods led to the adventures of the great heroes of old, such as Herakles, Odysseus and Jason.

Growing bored with the mortal world the gods retreated to Olympus and tended to their realms. The greatest change came when Zeus ruled that Aphrodite should no longer cause or permit love to flourish between mortal and god. He feared the growing power of the demigods but was tiring of the conflict with his wife Hera over his many affairs and sought to end them without taking personal responsibility. Around 1000 BCE, Greece entered a period without great heroes and divine interference.

At first the Greeks entered a dark age as they struggled to cope with the loss of divine and semi-divine support. They took to writing great epics to capture the glory days of old with the works of Homer the most prized. Mass migrations, natural disasters and conflict with vast foreign empires forged a new Greece.

The Olympian Revival

Around 370 BCE the Olympic gods ended their retreat when they discovered the Titans were not as dormant or as isolated as they thought. The Titans are now using mortal agents to strengthen their position and to sow discord in the mortal world. The increase in Titanic activity has coincided with a rise in the number of monsters plaguing the world. Foreign gods are also pressing on Greece’s border, eager and keen to expand their influence.

Seeing the mortal world below them increasing in turmoil, the Olympic gods have responded to the prayers of their followers. A return to all-out war with the Titans would destroy everything the mortals have created since the Titanomachy. Instead they are copying the Titans' example and creating mortal champions. A war by mortal proxy has developed and a new age of legends has begun.

Discussion

James Foster, 2012/06/20 20:51

from source: “Aphrodite bore Ankhises a son, the hero Aeneas, who was by tradition the last mortal child born to be born of a divine parent. After her experience with Ankhises, Aphrodite then ceased her practise of mating gods with mortal women and men. So, by the will of Zeus, the Age of half-divine Heroes came to an end and the (current, historical) Age of Iron began.”

James Foster, 2012/09/16 12:41

This article is scheduled for a rewrite

James Foster, 2012/12/31 11:44

Gigantomachy needs to be introduced/added.

Mark Foster, 2013/12/29 14:27

change the fall of Cronus to the emetic story

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